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The beginning

There’s an old pun about God being a baseball fan because the Torah starts out with the words “in the big inning” and not “in the beginning.” Rosh Hashanah is a celebration of the beginning of the Jewish new year but it is also the start of the big inning. It is the first day of Aseret Yemei Teshuvah (the 10 Days of Repentance) which ends on Yom Kippur. It is our big chance to repent for our sins. So to say, it’s the beginning of the big inning for repentance. Whether you’re on the winning or losing end all depends on your errors this past season and a willingness to prevent them next season. 

As we all know, Rosh Hashanah is a celebration. It is traditional. It’s nostalgic hearing the shofar and eating an apple dipped in honey. Maybe you will have a fulfilling synagogue service followed by a filling meal with family and friends. A fun celebration. Right? Yet, some might find this all stressful, boring, and/or uncomfortable. If this happens maybe they score points for repentance because they recognize the importance of the holiday outweighs their negative emotions. At any rate, we all pray for a great new year.  

Regarding repentance. Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the time to start to truly reflect on your actions over the past year. Did any of your errors amount to a sin? If so, how many? How bad were they? You don’t know? Well, God is keeping score. How seriously will you take all of this? Are you really, really sorry or are you just into this Rosh Hashanah thing out of habit?  

Have you gone over your list of sins? We all know the big ones. But did you consider all of your interactions for this past year? What about that last verbal jab you got in during that fight? You know the one I’m talking about. Was it worth it? Did the name calling advance your cause? Are you going to do it again? It’s start time to think about this.

Did you laugh when you saw that person trip and fall while looking at their cell phone? Did you return that excess change the cashier gave you or did you skip it because you didn’t have the time to go back to the store?  

Talking about time. How about that line cutting you did? Did you lean in front of  someone and assert to the clerk that you just had a question (Rak Sh’elah) with the intention of receiving the full service ahead of everyone else. Did you do it because you were short on time and your time is more valuable than the people you cut? Why is it that your time is more valuable? Do you make more money? Maybe the person you cut off just worked a 12 hour shift hustling that overtime just to make ends meet.

Did you hold up traffic by stopping in the middle of the street to drop someone off when you could have spent a couple of seconds more to pull over to the curb to get out of the way? Is your couple of seconds worth more than the two minutes you stole by delaying each driver behind you? No wait, your passenger unloaded a couple of bags that took yet another three minutes. All you had to do was pull over two inches and be a little more considerate. 

Maybe you pumped someone for information knowing you would never use their services? Did you then use that information and sneak behind their back without paying for their service? Are you considering these people in your repentance? Time is a commodity too. Maybe we should all spend a lot more time thinking about this one.

Have you justified any of your actions by saying it’s not personal, it’s only business. If so you might want to rethink what you did. Not saying your actions were wrong but it’s certainly worth reevaluating. How about chalking up what you did because it’s a cultural norm? Does a cultural norm make it not a sin? Did you justify what you did by saying that you did not want to be a friar (sucker)? Does that make what you did right? Possibly, yes. Possibly no. It may depend on the situation but certainly worth reevaluation.

The point here is that Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the 10 Days of Repentance, is not all fun and games. The repentance pressure is on. The big inning requires a real evaluation of our actions over the past year, not just the obvious ones. In fact, we may have been doing some of these types of actions for so long we don’t even recognize they are wrong. Some of these actions may be very close calls as to whether they are even serious errors. 

Ultimately the fate of any error will be called by the Umpire in the skybox. Prayer, repentance, and charity over the 10 Days of Repentance may convince the Umpire to change an adverse call to your favor.  

About the Author
Russell Subin is a retired US tax lawyer living in Ra'anana, Israel.
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