The Joy Of Beginnings

Photo by Ashley Edwards on Unsplash

Ah, the excitement of a blank page. 

White, pure as snow. Empty. Crisp. Fresh.

I felt this sensation wash over me on Yom Kippur. 

Hunger deep in my belly, I stand sniffing rosemary in my palm, listening to the blessing of the moon, captivated by its brightness.

The moon seems to wink back at me: Now you can start the new year.

Transgressions behind me, fully “redeemed,” I enter 5780 with an open heart.

I recall how ten days prior, on Rosh HaShana, I threw rocks into a spring to symbolically let go of habits that hold me back; of mental models that weigh heavy on my shoulders.

Then, Yom Kippur arrives and I feel weightless.

While refraining from eating and drinking, I create an opening. I get “myself” and my worldly needs out of the way to make room for holiness.

I find myself skipping home from synagogue, elated by the possibilities:

I can be whoever I want this year. Thank G-d, I am not a victim of circumstance. I have all the choices in the world.

After havdallah, my husband and I walk hand-in-hand to his parents house. We arrive home, and right before entering, look up at the sky.

Up north – where the tallest thing in the skyline is Mt. Tabor – we can see the stars.

Barely an hour passes until our smartphones turn on and the WhatsApp messages pour in. Calendar appointments ding. Facebook seems to scroll on its own.

Just like that, the loftiness of the holiday fades away, and my mind begins its usual chatter: plans, productivity, preparations, errands.

Am I back to square one?

If only we could hold on to that moment during Neila—right before the shofar blows—before Yom Kippur reaches its highest heights. That moment of total immersion in the Mikvah of the upper worlds.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, we cannot stay in that place.

Spiritual moments are meant to be fleeting. Yes, they become a part of us; and no, we cannot live there.

Now, with the chagim behind me, I feel it again—that blank page, the blinking cursor line waiting for words to be written.

Except now, reality has settled in.

And the blank page looks as intimidating as it is beautiful.

And so I am reminded, every year, of the ultimate challenge that the chagim present : bringing the spiritual to the mundane. Taking the “high” into the week, into ordinary routine.

So we walk down the streets and wish one another a sweet new year. We say chatima tova to bus drivers, to coworkers, and to cashiers in the supermarket.

It’s a lovely gesture and a testament to the unity of Am Yisrael.

But these words are empty unless we infuse meaning into them—unless we do the work.

We need to show up to this blank page–not with naive hope–but with wisdom gained from past years. We need to write new years intentions and have others hold us accountable.

We need to commit to growth, to self care, to kindness.

Because what’s the point in celebrating a new year unless we recognize it as an opportunity for rebirth?

Wishing us all the courage to fill in our blank page with audacity- with holy chutzpa – as Reb Nachman puts it.

May we successfully weave our lofty values into small, daily actions, using the power of the holidays to propel us – boldly and gracefully –  into the new year.

About the Author
New York expat gone Israeli lone soldier, Leora's heart was always in the East. She is an explorer of Judaism and mysticism, an observer of the human condition, a yoga enthusiast and a non-militant vegetarian. She enjoys weaving feelings into words and talking about all things Israel.
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