Restart or Refresh?

As we enter Sukkot, the last of the Jewish holidays in the series of those associated with ushering in a new year, it seems that we have been afforded an opportunity that our fast-paced lives do not allow for often enough – the chance for much needed time for reflection.

In preparation for Rosh Hashanah, summoned as we are to do so annually, many take inventory of the year that was – personally, communally, nationally and internationally. We do, after all, each have multiple identities, functioning and interacting in each of those realms.

The need to bridge those various identities has never seemed more imperative. While the focus on the individual in our world has become so extreme, at times allowing us to lose sight of the community and beyond, headlines have forced us to look up from our Facebook or Instagram, demanding that we shift our eyes to the collective. Liking and sharing simply will not do if we are to address the challenges that we face collectively – nationally and internationally.

There is great opportunity in this wake up call. Heeding attention to it harbors potential for deep reflection associated with the solemn fast of Yom Kippur. As opposed to the personal account of the year that was and the New Year’s resolutions that we commit ourselves to, Yom Kippur actually prescribes that we shift our gaze away from ourselves to the other – individually, communally, nationally and globally. We ask forgiveness from all those we that may have hurt, recognizing that it is not about us and acknowledging our fallibility as humans. This process requires that we exercise humility and internalize it sufficiently to apply it visibly in the year to come.

Then, just as Yom Kippur ends, we begin to build a booth, insecure and unprotected. It is in this external dwelling that we are to cement the resolutions that we have undertaken, not in the privacy and security of our home as a permanent structure. It is in this unassuming structure that we ascertain that all we have committed to is honest and genuine. Exposed in this way, we cannot fool ourselves or others and are given the opportunity to truly examine our resolutions. Outside, exposed to the forces of nature, open to all that may enter unannounced, equal to all others that dwell in a booth for the week, we are humbled.

Once again, herein lies the opportunity for deeper reflection, stripped of defenses and walls that we tend to build in order to protect ourselves. Our guard down, closer to nature and further from distractions, we are given the chance to dig deeper in order to connect to all that is around us. In this great equalizing exercise, exiting the forts we have built and castles we have erected, we are given the opportunity to modestly examine ourselves in the context of our multiple identities and to genuinely acknowledge the other.

In technological terms, this process may be viewed as the opportunity to press restart, expressing the hope to ‘turn over a new leaf’ and begin anew. This annual chance to secure the future by turning the page to a clean one is most optimistic. However, as we have spent much of our time over these high holidays reading about the past rather than disconnecting from it, it seems there is an even more profound opportunity.

Rather than viewing this as a chance to restart and to write a brand new story on the clean pages ahead, we can opt for the refresh option. Selecting refresh encourages us to take responsibility for all that has been said and done, to feel accountable for it and to strive, with that experience and modesty in tow, for a better future. On the eve of Sukkot, we have arrived at this junction of the journey. Following deep inwards reflection and the opportunity to look out of ourselves and see the other, we are headed outdoors, where we will be exposed, looking up and outwards, stripped of formalities and barriers, looking to those around us with a sense of collective responsibility. Humbled by our imperfection, we hope to find the strength to focus on the challenges of securing the future while recognizing the importance of the past. Refreshed.

About the Author
Adv. Michal Cotler-Wunsh is a PhD candidate in Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, researching the topic of free speech. She is a research fellow at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) at IDC Herzliya and a board member of Tzav Pius.