Tonight is Rosh Hashanah—the Jewish New Year. Among other things, it’s a time for reflection, renewal, resolutions—and change. Getting better (all the time). To leave behind where we were—our negatives, our restraints, our barriers and limitations. To move forward to where we can be—our positives, our potential, our commitments, our relationships. This applies to all areas of our life—physical (health), emotional, intellectual and of course spiritual.
For me, this aspect of Rosh Hashanah is, this year, intensely personal. Sometimes, we have to admit, it’s hard to reflect on a year past. So many days, hours, minutes. So many events, confrontations, celebrations. So many mistakes, misgivings, errors, failures. So many moments, insights, got-its, successes. It’s hard to quantify, qualify, recollect, analyze, (course) correct, maintain the right path—let alone remember. In the aggregate, collective, sure—but in the specific, individual, a bit harder, except for stand-out incidents.
But this year, for me, is different. Last year at this time, I was three months before surgery. Three months at the nadir. Three months with the least confidence ever about the writing in the Book. (Truth to tell, part of my new perspective is to be aware, as much as possible, of the tentativeness of all confidences, and while told by our prayers that the Book will be sealed with good, not to take that, or anything for granted. Joy and gratitude - requisite, but they require more work than we imagine.)
This brings me to the subject of a change of attitude, and the consequent acquisition, conscious if possible, of a different perspective. Anyone who has gone through a trauma, a life-change, a crisis, and survived knows that things are never the same. Normal is not normal again, even when physically things are restored, or improved. Soldiers, even those without PTSD or other issues, know this. Those who have survived a health crisis know this. Those who have gone into exile—refugees, whether from a hurricane or man-made disaster. Those pressed, squashed by business, family, debt, daily life feel it.
There are those who write about, or express artistically, their experiences. There are those who cannot. There are those who keep it personal, sharing it with a few intimates. There are those paralyzed, those in therapy, those who work through or around it, those who are crippled by it, those who grow from it.
But all are changed. And some of us are fortunate that our new attitude gives us a different perspective, a deeper appreciation, a stronger thankfulness, a more powerful investment (of time and self), a heightened sense of connection, a new feeling of responsibility.
I am reminded of three Biblical verses, one from Isaiah (12:1): “On that day you will say, I thank you, Lord, for you were angry with me.” And two from Psalms (118: 17-18): “I shall not die, but I shall live and recount the deeds of G-d. G-d has indeed afflicted me, but He did not give me up to death.” And also (Psalms 66:20): Blessed is G-d Who has not turned away my prayer or His kindness from me.”
Some of us can say, as others before us have said, ‘Before nothing would have induced me to go through this experience, but after I would never give it up or exchange it for another.’ Some of us, but not all.
We know that experience comes with a price. We have to be squeezed, be tested, be tried, suffer. “It don’t come easy.” Success, material or spiritual, is that way.
There will always be scars, not least of which in memory. We bear the flaws and wounds of our growth, physical, emotional, intellectual and perhaps above all spiritual.
Even when there is healing, there is residue. We who have been through it, get it. There can be return, renewal, growth. But there is no return to normal. If there ever was normal, what is now is not that. It’s a new normal—if such a thing exists.
However we describe it, explain it, narrate it, share it—“it” being the experience—it changes us, must, even if far from our awareness, give us a different perspective.
And somehow, I think, that is related to the call of the shofar, to the process, collectively and individually, of Rosh Hashanah, of a new year embedded in each new day, each new minute—now, and for the rest of our lives.