Rediscovering Our Best Selves on Rosh Hashanah: A Conversation with Adrienne Gold Davis
On Rosh Hashanah, G-d created the first people, Adam and Eve, and fulfilled His ultimate purpose in creating the world. To mark the occasion, G-d revisits his “blueprint” during this time of year, and we have the opportunity to take a step back and become our own architects. What kind of people do we want to be? How do we want to change our interactions with others? How can we make the world a better place? In this interview, Trip Leader Adrienne Gold Davis shares strategies for creating meaningful new year’s resolutions and clarifying our aspirations.
What opportunities can Rosh Hashanah offer us?
Rosh Hashanah offers us a full do-over, a Plan B, and a return to our beautiful selves. A gift of epic proportions, Rosh Hashanah liberates us from our regret and shame about the past and our worry and anxiety for the future. It reminds us how intrinsically powerful we are when we operate as both physical and spiritual beings! We work hard on ourselves during this time of year and will confront things that require apologizing. When we apologize, we open ourselves up to healthier relationships and communal healing. And when we accept apologies from others, we build our humility and generosity of spirit!
What are some strategies for creating meaningful new year’s resolutions?
If your lawn is covered with weeds, you can mow the lawn, but soon enough, those weeds will be back and flourishing! Nurturing a great lawn involves the same strategies as creating meaningful resolutions. First, you need to search long and hard for the root of the behaviors that you want to improve. For example, perhaps you don’t want to scream at your kids this year. Have you ever noticed that you’re much more patient with them once you’ve slept properly, have eaten, or have recently spent quality time with friends?
Twelve-step programs use a tool called, HALT. Before you scream at your kids, ask yourself:
- Am I Hungry?
- Am I Angry?
- Am I Lonely?
- Am I Tired?
Before opening your mouth, answer those questions and resolve to pull out the roots of your negative behavior. If you’ve answered yes to even just one of these questions, don’t speak at all. Once you’ve answered your need, you can begin to move forward.
How can Rosh Hashanah help us rediscover our purpose?
Our purpose in life is not our talents, our careers, or even our families. Our purpose in life is to work on our character and to become soul-driven people who love, give, and light up the world. What happens to us and to the people we love is the vehicle through which we put our purpose to work. On Rosh Hashanah, we are given the opportunity to see ourselves honestly. We see that we are both powerful and extremely small in the world. We realize that with every person we meet, every challenge we face, and every triumph we experience, we are given a chance to fulfill our purpose.
How can we maximize the Rosh Hashanah service?
Here is my approach to maximizing the Rosh Hashanah service:
1. Make a list of your aspirations for the coming year. Make them specific to your character, your relationships, and your work. Under each point, write three tangible, practical ways you can achieve these goals.
2. Make a list of your regrets from the previous year. Under each point, write three tangible, practical ways you can avoid falling into these traps in the coming year.
3. Make a list of your greatest strengths and talents. Under each point, write three tangible ways you can apply these strengths and talents to healing our fractured world, beginning with your family.
Buy yourself a lovely journal, write these resolutions inside of it, and bring it with you to synagogue. Taking a personal inventory of ourselves and creating a plan for the coming year is an essential part of Rosh Hashanah. When the prayers begin, read it briefly and then use your journal to meditate on how, with G-d’s help, you can achieve anything and do anything. Don't feel bound by anything other than a deep commitment to personal honesty, fearless self-exploration, and clarifying your aspirations.
How can we engage our family in Rosh Hashanah traditions?
I begin by decorating my house. Out come the shofars, pomegranates, honey pots, and flowers! Ask your kids for drawings to decorate, bring them to a ceramics studio to make honey bowls, take them shopping for new clothes (but give your teenagers a budget to do it on their own), and invite them to help with the cooking. Help them create vision boards, showing what they hope their new year will look like, by cutting out pictures from magazines. Don't allow anxiety about meals to get in the way of creating a home atmosphere that bustles with positive energy. Be more patient, understanding, and forgiving. And when your kids ask you what happened to mommy, tell them that this is what Rosh Hashanah is all about!