Summer is over, September is here, and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur lie just around the bend.
During this time of preparation for those Days of Awe, our tradition enjoins us to take a kind of spiritual accounting of ourselves, known as cheshbon nefesh. We reflect upon the year gone by, consider our failings, and focus our energy on how we can do better in the coming year.
While most of us have erred many times and in many ways, Rabbi Shraga Simmons cautions us against attempting to change too much, too quickly. He suggests: “Don't try to conquer too many things at once; it may be too overwhelming. Instead, choose the areas that cut closest to the root of your problems. This will maximize your success in the teshuvah process.”
I would add that even as we examine and amend our shortcomings, we should also recognize and build upon our strengths and successes. This can help us move forward with confidence. Below, you will find a copy of a prayer that affirms our healing acts of the past year. It is a nice supplement to the traditional “Al Cheyt” recitation of our transgressions. By focusing up and acknowledging both our moral failures and successes—one or two at a time—we can each make significant progress in the coming new year, 5773.
God our Creator and Guide, Let us speak now of the healing acts by which we bring You into the world, the acts of repair that make You a living presence in our lives:
Ál ha-tikkún she-tikánu l’fanécha. . .
For the act of healing we have done openly or anonymously and for the act of repair we have done without personal gain
For the act of healing we have done by seeking forgiveness and for the act of repair we have done by forgiving others
For the act of healing we have done through righteous giving and for the act of repair we have done by opening our hearts
For the act of healing we have done by comforting the mourner and visiting the sick and for the act of repair we have done by pursuing justice and human rights, fairness and civility
For the act of healing we have done by making peace between one person and another and for the act of repair we have done by protecting nature and all its creatures
For the act of healing we have done by teaching our children the ways of peace and for the act of repair we have done by teaching our children the ways of Torah
For the act of healing we have done by honoring elders and loving the stranger
For the act of repair we have done in response to Your commandment: choose life and blessing
And all these bring nearer the day when You shall be One and Your name shall be One.