|Change of Seasons-Big Trees State Park, Arnold, CA|
In the weeks that lead up to the start of the first holiday (Rosh Hashanah), it's time to consider the previous year. There is some reflection and acknowledgement. It's an important time to be honest with oneself. Specifically, it's good to consider both what has gone well and where improvement can be made. Self knowledge isn't easy and being truthful isn't always fun. Being thankful, recognizing God's gifts and his divine love, and knowing that we are imperfect beings made in God's image, are all things to reflect upon. It can be tough at times. We don't always act in ways that are as good as they could be. We fall short. Others forgive us. God forgives us. We forgive ourselves.
By the time Yom Kippur rolls around, it's imperative to identify any failings (as well as strengths) and to make a plan to improve. One must be truly repentant. A plan to do better cannot just be an idea. It must be heartfelt and put it in to action. Wrongdoings are between the person and God but also between the person and other people. Words and actions count in the act of repentance.
It's my opinion that a person need not be a practicing Jew to take advantage of these ideas. In my mind, they are really for everyone. I included the above image of what (I think) is a Dogwood tree. To me, the beautifully changing colors of the tree are a reminder of the constant renewal that the tree makes every year. Each Autumn, the leaves begin to turn color as they lose their chlorophyll. The green color, normally visible, goes away and the other colors of red and orange and yellow emerge. The tree is preparing for shorter days, less sunlight and it stops its food making process. When longer days and warmer weather return, the tree will once again begin its food production and the green leaves will again begin to grow.
It's an amazing and miraculous process, the tree renewing itself each season. The tree sustains itself year after year through this process. For me, that is one of the points of this holiday time; to figure out how to sustain both yourself and others around you through reflection, thanksgiving, acts of repentance and prayer. And in my mind, it's what we can all do during the Days of Awe or Yamim Noraim.
Thank you for reading,