Rosh Hashanah is a time for soul reflection. It's very intimate, very personal, and necessarily honest.
Traveling within ourselves, we navigate the pathways by which we have deceived ourselves and betrayed our souls this year. We look to the midot, the moral traits of honesty, strength, courage in adversity, character, charitableness, to not only discover where we have fallen short, but how we have made excuses and deceived ourselves to justify our conduct. Perhaps we pursued pleasure at the expense of integrity, perhaps we deceived for profit, perhaps we cut corners on friendship in order to gain public acceptance or pursue advantage. Whatever our shortcomings outwardly, we justified them inwardly. Soul destruction follows world deception.
Our public world has become a place of constant deceit. Lies are made acceptable by hordes who join in the chorus that black is white, up is down, and dishonesty is honesty. But the soul knows deep within when we attempt to deceive God. Dishonesty makes our skin crawl, our guts churn, and in our moments of self confrontation we hate whom we have become. Trump must destroy everything Obama built because every achievement is a gut wrenching reminder of what he is not and will never be: honest, caring and a real man. The soul shrinks at our attempts to corrupt it.
Teshuvah, return to the true self, requires time and effort. Rosh Hashanah follows the month of Elul because self confrontation is the most difficult moral process. It's easy to give more charity, to share kind words, to stop lying, at least temporarily. Honestly facing the snake within, the slime we have allowed to overcome our beautiful, pure souls: that brings us to our knees in shame.
Rosh Hashanah prayers are no more than thoughts in letters words and sounds on a page. They only reach within when we take them as seriously as we take death itself, and confront the ways in which we are wasting our lives.
Consider your ideals, both gained and sacrificed. Consider your loves, both envisioned and tarnished. Consider your hope for yourself, because that hope is achievable as long as we draw the breath of life. Hope only disappears with our final breath; but nothing is gained without honest reflection and action.
Teshuvah: return to what? To the self we believed we could be, and gave up in the moments of outward advantage and inward betrayal. Now is the time, because now is the only moment in which action can occur.
L'shanah tovah tikateyvu: may our actions inscribe ourselves in the Book of Life.