By Rabbi Lisa Delson
Mazel tov, we’ve made it. We have made it through the most challenging, all-encompassing, and spiritually full time of year. Today, the first day that comes after Simchat Torah/Shmini Atzeret, is the first un-High Holy day that we have experienced since mid-September. However, the season stretches way back to Selichot, or Rosh Chodesh Elul, or even mid-July when some began the process of writing High Holy Day sermons. Today is the day the first day that many rabbis look back on this very hectic month of Tishrei. Today, we have the chance to reflect, take a breath and move on.
Looking back on the past month we can figure out what worked and what did not. We can think about how we might make changes for next year or enhance what we did this year. There are a few questions running through my head. Question 1: Should we have had that 20s and 30s Break-the-Fast organized solely by the rabbi in her 30s after an entire day of fasting? Answer: Probably yes, just with some help next year. Question 2: Could we have reached more people through advertising? Answer: Probably yes. Question 3: What might a new Afternoon Service look like next year? Answer: A great question… for sometime in March.
In addition to synagogue programming, this is an opportunity to reflect on how we might better serve ourselves throughout the holy day season. Could we have been more intentioned in our moments of prayer? Could we have cared a little less about what Congregant A said after our favorite sermon? Even if we did not practice a great deal of self-care over this period of time, doing something kind for ourselves today is a great way to make up for lost time. A little reflection goes a long way.
After a healthy amount of reflection, it is so tempting to jump right back into the day-to-day activities without taking a minute to breathe and realize what we have accomplished personally and professionally already in 5773. Some of us might want to tackle that very long list on our desks entitled “Achrei He’Chagim,” after the holy days. For me, this list includes reformatting my Judaism 101 course, planning for an upcoming Shabbaton, and actually making a coffee date with a local colleague that has been cancelled three times. This to-do list will take weeks to accomplish and will carry me through the end of the secular year. But today is just today and today we need to take a break. The list will be there today and tomorrow. This is our chance to thank God that we have come out on the other side. Everything leading up to this day was worthwhile and meaningful but this day is our chance to take a moment and recognize our successes. It might be easy to look at missteps here and there over the holy day season but let’s not. Let’s celebrate.
Rabbi Lisa Delson serves as Assistant Rabbi and Program Director at Temple Beth Emeth in Ann Arbor, Michigan.