So, the Jewish new year is fast approaching…
I have put together my top 10 tips for having a sweet and successful Jewish new year (by which I mean a year of real, enjoyable personal growth and development).
These tips are all things we know, but sometimes for whatever reason, we may not give them our attention or incorporate them into our life. If you read all 10 tips and are inspired to put your attention to even just 1, that is amazing! Our life is a journey and that journey is made one step at a time!
(You might want to scroll through the list and see the 10 headings and after that choose to read the tips which speak to you the most).
I have split the 10 tips across 3 categories: Before Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur – On Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur – After Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur.
Here they are:
Before RH & YK
1. Believe in yourself! – You are amazing! YOU ARE AMAZING! YOU ARE AMAZING!
YOU ARE AMAZING!
You are! And you have to believe that! No matter what mistakes you’ve made in the past, you have an indestructible, pure soul for your very essence! The next 9 tips are great tips for HOW to experience real, enjoyable personal growth and development throughout the new Jewish year ahead, but no one will feel all that motivated to work on the HOW if they aren’t clear on the WHY. And WHY it is worth you recommitting this new Jewish year to experience real, enjoyable personal growth and development is simply because you are so worth investing in! You have tremendous inner beauty and capability! Believing in this truth is what will put the “umph!” in this year’s leg of your life’s journey. Believing in your tremendous inner beauty and capability is the greatest gift you can give to yourself and to the world!
To Do: Remind yourself each morning that you are AMAZING and BEAUTIFUL and CAPABLE! (To read my post on how to make a morning affirmation, click here)
2. Make sure you have clear goals – How does the old adage go? If you fail to plan, then you are planning to fail! It’s so true! If you want to enjoy sweet personal growth and development, you have to clarify and specify what real personal growth in the new year means for you! You have to identify, one by one, the areas you want to grow in. Can you answer these question?…
Question: What 3 spiritual goals are most important to me right now? What will achieving them look like? Which is the most important of these 3 goals? What would be the most helpful next step that I can take towards it? – If we can turn our goals into small daily actions, that is the best!
It is possible to meander through life, finishing school, getting a job, going from one stage of life to the next but never properly taking out time to answer the question “What truly are the most important things that I should be pursuing and prioritising?” and “How am I going to achieve these goals?” Before Rosh Hashanah try and take some time out to ask yourself the above questions (in green) as asking yourself these questions each year is very important!
It you want to put more thought into this after finishing this article this blog post on taking out time to get in touch with your higher yearnings might be helpful.
3. Spend your time with friends that support your goals – It is said that we end up becoming the average of our 5 best friends. This may be a good thing, or perhaps not, depending on who we hang out with. If our friends share our values and are pursuing similar goals, we can grow with them and support each other. The results can be beautiful and this is a very powerful way to go through life.
What if our friends, however, do not believe in what we believe in and are not striving for the goals that we yearn for and in fact are leading us down paths that are harmful for us? Well, if that is the situation, we need to either help them pursue more elevated goals like our own so we can grow together and support each other, or, if that doesn’t happen, it sounds harsh but we need to spend less time with them.
Questions: Who amongst your friends are having the best influence on you? Do you spend time with anyone who is influencing you in a negative way? Who do you think you should spend more time with and who do you think you should spend less time with?
It you want to learn specific practical tips regarding how to grow with your friends after finishing this article this blog post on How To Grow With Your Friends might be helpful (it’s long but woth it).
4. Meet regularly with a mentor – There are people out there who have achieved what you want to achieve or who at least have tremendous life wisdom which could be of tremendous benefit to you. These individuals have made mistakes in getting to the place that they now occupy and have learnt a great deal about which are the wrong turns to take and which are the right turns. They have a perspective and a wisdom that both we and our friends don’t yet have. How useful would it be to talk with a person like this… to discuss your goals and your challenges with them and to ask them for their advise?! They could help you avoid costly mistakes – AND – They can help you see opportunities, believe in yourself and maximize your potential! I know many people who meet regularly (between once a week and once a month) with a mentor at Aish. They have told me that meeting with a mentor litteraly transformed their life!!!… If your goals are important to you besides having friends that support those goals, having a mentor as well is critical!
Question: Who can you think of who you can start asking questions to, meeting with … ? (Maybe start by identifying a few questions and then run them by the best option on your list..)
5. Take time out to pray! – Sometimes, even with clear goals, good friends and a wise mentor, we get stuck and can’t find a solution. For example, one can’t find a job, one can’t find Mr or Miss Right, one can’t see a way out of a difficult scenario or maybe one can’t find the right friends or the right mentor… What can one do in these situations? Where can one turn? So… It is so good for us to get into the habit of asking the Source of everything for what we need.
Here are 3 basic prayer tips:  You don’t have to pray from a siddur (prayer book) when you pray. You can speak in your own words (but you should actually speak out your prayers, just thinking them or hoping for them isn’t prayer).  You can (and should) pray for anything and everything you need. Don’t worry about being too much of a burden. It doesn’t work that way at all.  When you pray, ask for what you need as a ‘free undeserved gift’ to be given simply because the One you are asking from is kind and merciful and loves you! (If we rely on our own merits who can say that we really ‘deserve’ everything that we are asking for?)
There are other great prayer tips we can talk about another time. The main point for now is that daily prayer – even a moment each day – can turn your life around and bring you so much opportunity and blessing that cannot be achieved via other means…
Question: When is a good time for you to pray for your needs?
It you want to learn more tips on facing ordeals and prayer after finishing this article, this two part blog post called Jamie and the Old Man might be helpful.
6. Fix your mistakes – True story: I know a guy who used to be a professional thief. Seriously! He was a financial investor for people and would shave profits that weren’t rightfully his off some of his client’s portfolios. He told me that he made a really good living for quite a few years doing this but that he lived with guilt. One day after he came home from a class that he went to about Yom Kippur and Teshuva (fixing one’s mistakes) he slumped down on the floor in the corner of the room and just sat there for a long time thinking about how pathetically he was conducting his life. Finally he said to himself “Enough! I have to stop and I have to clean up what I’ve done and get back on track!” He said it took him over two weeks to go through his records and calculate how much he had taken from each client over the years plus how much interest and profits that they had each lost because of their smaller capitals. He then did something that he said was the hardest thing that he had ever done. He emptied all of his savings including money he had inherited and he took out a loan so he could pay back every penny that he had taken.
In Hebrew what this individual did is called doing teshuva and it means to fix up our mistakes. If you’ve made any mistakes between you and your Maker then to do teshuva one needs to follow this 3 step process: 1) Admit what you have done – 2) Regret your mistake (which has taken you away from being the person you want to be) and 3) Set in motion a plan to completely correct your mistake, committing never to do it again. If the mistake also involves one’s fellow, for example stealing something or hurting someone in some way, then the person who was stolen from or hurt needs also to be paid back (if relevant) and appeased.
It’s important to do teshuva and fix up our mistakes as soon as we realise that we have made them, but it’s especially important before Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur. During the month before Rosh Hashanah and the days between Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur we are given a special Divine assistance to do teshuva. So…
Question: Can you think of anything that you need to fix up? Can you  admit out loud that you have made / are making this mistake  regret it by seeing what it is doing to you and perhaps others  make a plan to eradicate this mistake, one doable step at a time?
7. Tzeddaka – Giving money to tzeddakah (worthy causes) during the time period before Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur is very important if one can. It provides a Divine merit and brings down a flow of blessing.
It’s important to pick the best worthy causes one can. For example, protecting Rhinos is very important, but, feeding starving families in your own neighbourhood is more important. Supporting a foundation that helps preserve ancient artifacts might be beneficial from a certain perspective, but helping to support an institution that helps teach Jews about their heritage is even more important.
Question: is there anywhere that you would like to give tzeddaka to before Rosh Hashanah? When are you going to do that?
On Rosh Hashanah / Yom Kippur
8. Take Rosh Hashanah seriously – Rosh Hashanah is the time when our judgement for our year ahead takes place (which determines our health and our finances for the new year and pretty much everything else also). It is very good to go to shul on Rosh Hashanah and to participate as much as you can. Try and do the mitzvah of hearing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. It is like drinking a cappuccino for your soul – The blasts of the shofar ‘wakes us up’, reminding us at the very beginning of the Jewish year that there is a Creator and a purpose.
Question: Which shul can you go to on Rosh Hashanah where you will feel comfortable and you will be able to get into the day?
9. Take Yom Kippur seriously – On Yom Kippur the mitzvah of the day is to do teshuva (which we talked about above). It requires us to verbally admit our mistakes, to regret them because they have led us away from our higher self and from our purpose and from our Source… and then to commit (one small step at a time if necessary) to correct them… until we are totally clean.
Going to shul on Yom Kippur and trying to engage in the opportunity of teshuva on this day is very empowering. The last stage of the tehsuva process (committing to fix each mistake completely and to iradicate it from our lives) means that Yom Kippur and the teshuva one does on it launches our year with a commitment to growth and to improve and elevate ourselves as we go through the new year.
Question: Which shul can you go to on Yom Kippur where you will feel comfortable and where you will be able to get into the day?
After Rosh Hashanah / Yom Kippur
10. Pick yourself up when you fall (don’t ever throw in the towel) – You know, there aren’t too many people who never make mistakes, who never have bad days, or bad weeks… who never fail to live up to their values. Most of us, if we are alive and breathing, will make mistakes from time to time and maybe more often than that! When this happens we just need to get up, dust ourselves off and get back on that saddle (easier with the right friends and a good mentor – tips 3 & 4).
It’s always good to learn from our mistakes, asking ourselves ‘what went wrong?’ and ‘how can I avoid this in the future?’… but besides asking these questions, there is also something that we need to tell ourselves… What’s that? Well, we need to tell ourselves that if we have fallen and we have made a mistake or mistakes that doesn’t take away our innate value and it doesn’t mean that we may as well throw in the towel and quit. A mistake just means that we can now learn a lesson for the future and that after it has been made, we can get back up and dust ourselves off, realign ourselves with our values and our goals, (do the teshuva process if we are able to) and get back to doing those small daily things that take us in the direction that we want to be going in.
So… these are my top 10 tips for a sweet, meaningful and successful Jewish new year. Did any of the tips speak to you? If so, maybe it’s worth your while asking yourself “What specifically will my next step be to benefit from this tip?”
May I wish you the sweetest and most successful new year ahead that you have ever had!
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Dedicated to the elevation of my father’s neshama (Avigdor Hershal ben Yosef Meir)