Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, began last night at sundown. I haven’t figured out why the year starts in the 7th month of the Jewish calendar, but hey, January 1st is rather arbitrary as well. Anyway, the significance of the holiday is that it begins the “10 days of awe” which end on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. On Rosh Hashanah, God gets out the book and writes all our names in it with the kind of year we’re going to have, including whether we’re going to be around for next year’s holiday. On Yom Kippur, the book is “closed”. Pretty creepy, huh? The good news is that we have these 10 days to change God’s decree, and we can do so through repentance, prayer and good deeds.
I don’t believe in the kind of God that judges us (if God is love, where does judgment come into the picture?), let alone one that records it all in a book, but the holiday still has tremendous meaning for me. The idea of “cleaning our slate” shows up in every religion, but I am reminded that the only one who ever writes anything on my slate is me. We are the ones who tend to have elephant-like memories when it comes to our own shortcomings, our own mistakes, our own limitations; our own “sins.” A sin is an error, specifically a thought, word or action that we express from less than our highest consciousness. The chances are great that we’ve already paid the consequences for that error, so why is it still on the slate?
For me, God is all the love, intelligence, substance, principle and presence in the Universe. And all of that is alive and active as each and every one of us. Each of us has a divine essence that not only represents our fundamental reality, but also is always tapping at the door of our awareness, ready, willing, anxious and infinitely able to express all that is good and beautiful and true out into the world. All we have to do is give our consent. Whenever we do, our God Self radiates as brilliantly as the day we were born. Our slate is already and eternally clean unless we choose to hold things on ourselves. And because we do, rituals and holidays such as Rosh Hashanah hold incredible value.
For me, it’s not God’s decree that needs to be changed, it’s our own. And the very things that Jewish people believe will do the job, namely repentance, prayer and good deeds, are the perfect activities we can engage in to raise our consciousness and change our own decree about ourselves.
Repentance, even though the word carries the connotation of contrition, simply means, “Think again.” So things like forgiveness (especially of self), repeating affirmations and denials, visualization and simply making a different choice about something all fall into that category. Prayer is another activity that isn’t so much about changing God’s mind but about changing ours. And one can say the same about “good deeds” (service). When we do any of these things, we tend to feel really good, and I believe that’s because we’re touching our “original goodness”, our divine essence. We’re reminding ourselves that our slate is clean.
What’s the big deal about being more aware that our slate is clean in each and every moment? When I do remember that, it allows me to make choices that are based on what I really desire and what is really important to me, instead of ones based on what I think is possible. What I think is possible, especially when I run it through my memory that is chock full of my own errors and shortcomings, is quite limited. The only way I can really find out what’s possible is by heading in the direction of my deepest desires. And most of the time I find out that all things are possible, especially when I align in consciousness with my God Self.
My high school physics teacher said that the only thing in the universe that was impossible was putting toothpaste back into the tube the same way it came out. If that’s even remotely true, that leaves a whole bunch of things that are possible!
So I choose to honor Rosh Hashanah tradition this year and do a whole lot of repenting, praying and good deeds, because I’ve undoubtedly written a bunch of things on my slate this year, and those activities will remind me that if I wrote ‘em, I can erase them. With a clean slate, it’s full speed ahead in the direction of my dreams. L’shanah tovah (“for a good year”)!
And if that’s all I remember, that’s more than enough for now.