Reflection and renewal, repentance and remorse. These are some of the significant concepts that many Jews consider during this time of the year. What makes this month so conducive to this sort of self-examination? Aren’t we considering these ideas during the rest of the year? Is Rosh Hashanah merely another opportunity to make a New Year’s resolution?

Our heritage promotes opportunities for people to congregate, whether participating in Shabbat or holiday services, sharing family and communal celebrations, or comforting mourners during shiva. While there are various ritual components associated with each of these situations, what links them together is that they cannot be fully realized without being a part of a community. Even the sound of the shofar is a reminder of the importance of connecting with others, while encouraging introspection.

Many approach the High Holidays as a time to reflect on our past while setting our sights on a hopeful future. Prior to taking steps toward self-improvement, one might seek some form of absolution from previous misdeeds or poor choices. Not surprisingly, for those who attend services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, this tends to be a prime time for many of us to participate in some form of structured service or prayer. While there is certainly nothing wrong with prayer (and studies have shown that taking time to meditate, reflect or pray can be beneficial to your health) there is much more to self-improvement than simply acknowledging a shortcoming or mistake.

The Jewish approach requires real effort and action and even a shift in mindset in addition to the requisite apology to anyone who has been wronged. One cannot simply pray for forgiveness for having done something that hurt another. One needs to actively pursue forgiveness from the victim, correct the negative results and consciously work toward never repeating the offense in the future.

Why is this idea important to everyone, not just those of us who attend services or commit to some level of observance? If self-improvement is a personal process, why do we need to be reminded in such a public way to seek it out?

During the High Holidays, we are reminded of our individual importance, our unique contributions and our personal stories. We are also encouraged to recognize the important role we play in the community. We are defined not through our words, but through our choices and our actions, particularly through our interactions with others.

Perhaps it is these interactions that are most valuable after all.

Consider the following short exchange…

A man died. When he realized it, he saw God coming closer with a suitcase in his hand.

God: *Alright son, it’s time to go.*

Man: So soon? I had a lot of plans…

God: *I am sorry but, it’s time to go.*

Man: What do you have in that suitcase?

God: *Your belongings.*

Man: My belongings? You mean my things… clothes… money…

God; *Those things were never yours, they belong to the Earth.*

Man: Is it my memories?

God: *No. They belong to Time.*

Man: Is it my talent?

God: *No. That belongs to Divine Providence*

Man: Is it my friends and family?

God: *No, son. They belong to the Path you travelled.*

Man: Is it my wife and children?

God: *No. They belong to your Heart.*

Man: Then it must be my body.

God: *No, No… It belongs to Dust.*

Man: Then surely it must be my Soul!

God: *You are sadly mistaken, son. Your Soul belongs to Me.*

Man: I never owned anything?

God: *That’s right. You never owned anything*.

Man with tears in his eyes and full of fear takes the suitcase from God’s hand and asks God…

Man: Then, what was mine?

God: Your *choices*. Every choice you made was *yours.*

May this year be filled with good health, ample happiness, good choices and opportunities for meaningful engagement as we continue to take steps to become better versions of ourselves.

Wishing you a happy, healthy and sweet New Year!

Shana Tovah U’metukah!


Behzad Dayanim, Chief Learning Officer
September 27, 2019


Read Behzad Dayanim’s previous blog posts here.


In 2018, the Friedman Commission for Jewish Education (CJE) became a part of the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County. Together, Federation and CJE share a unified desire to elevate Jewish education and engagement throughout our community. As Federation’s center for Jewish learning, our goal is to create and support programs throughout the community, serve as an expert resource, and provide unique opportunities for direct engagement. We invite you to engage in Jewish life and learning here in the Palm Beaches, and look forward to helping you navigate your unique Jewish journey.

To find out more, visit jewishpalmbeach.org/cje.