“For everything, there is a season,” King Solomon teaches.
So if you had to pick three good quotes that fit this season and that can inspire us on this eve of Rosh Hashanah as we march into the Jewish New Year of 5783, which ones would you pick?
I’m certain that many good quotes can provide the answer to this question. But here are three humble suggestions, that, I hope, can infuse our year ahead with direction, meaning, and purpose:
1. “Stop searching for the bad in you. Search for the good in you, and make it grow — as it is for this goodness that G-d created us.” – Rabbi Nachman Of Breslov
Unfortunately, many equate introspection and self-betterment to searching for the bad within, in order to fight it, and eventually, expel it. Alas, the search for bad often fills us with anguish, despair, and paralysis. Thus, Rabbi Nachman offers a different and refreshing approach: if we want to fulfill the purpose for which we were created, our focus needs to change. And so, this year, and in all years to come, instead of dwelling on the bad in us, let us search for the good in us and make it grow!
In the poignant words of Marianne Williamson: “It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of G-d. Your playing small does not serve the world… We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.”
2. “Ultimately, we only truly own what we give.” – Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz
Rabbi Meir, the legendary 2nd Century Jewish Sage, teaches in the Midrash that “man comes into the world with closed hands as if to say ‘I can own it all. But man leaves this with open hands as if to show that, after all, he takes nothing with him.”
There exists an exception yet to Rabbi Meir’s words. The deeds of goodness and kindness that we performed will forever stay with us, and in the hearts of the people we’ve touched. For, at the end of the day, we will indeed only own that which we gave.
Every day we have the opportunity to be other-oriented, to touch someone’s life, to serve, to comfort, to listen, to smile. Let us resolve this year to give of ourselves and do good today, more than yesterday, but much less than tomorrow.
3. “Place in our hearts the ability to see only the good in our friends and not their shortcomings.” – Prayer by Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk
According to recent surveys, at least 27 percent of Americans are estranged from a member of their own family, and the percentage of people who say they have no close friends has quadrupled since 1990.
I am no expert to say what is causing all of this, but perhaps, judgementalism and the inability “to see the good in everyone” play a strong role in these alarming statistics. But, just imagine, how our relationships would thrive if we learned to focus on the positive traits in the other, rather than the negative ones?
In the words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, “Imagine you could open your eyes to see only the good in every person, the positive in every circumstance, and the opportunity in every challenge.”
This year, let us make sure that this imagination becomes our everyday reality.
May we all be inscribed and sealed for a good, healthy, joyous, and prosperous year. Amen.