BY RACHEL LAVICTOIRE / AJT //
The time for Rosh Hashanah has come and we find ourselves once again welcoming in a new year.
It’s during such moments, when we embark on something new, that many of us start on a journey of reflection. We look back at past events and set new goals for the future.
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We may ask ourselves, “How did I treat my family this year? Did I work hard enough in school? Was I always sure to be there for my friends?”
While those are all good questions to be asking at this time of year, I think there may be a better way to explore the idea of “choices”.
For example, rather than asking yourself how you treated your family, it might be worthwhile to ask yourself how you “chose to show your family you loved them?” Rather than asking if you worked hard in school, ask yourself about the times you chose between “working and not working.”
Going in this direction helps me, especially during periods like Rosh Hashanah, assess where I am and how I’ve lived in the past.
It’s easy to think, “Sure, I treated my family pretty well,” but really when was the last time you chose to go out of your way to show them your love? And it’s easy to look at your grades and tell yourself you didn’t work hard enough, but thinking about each and every choice you made to sacrifice something in order to study, then you can feel much better about yourself.
Of course, after asking such detail-oriented questions, we tend to start looking at the big picture: How do I feel about my life currently, and what could I have done differently to change it?
And here’s where this week’s Torah portion offers us an interesting perspective. So, generally, when we ask question reflecting on our life, we think about our professional, social, and religious lives and wonder how “successful” we’ve been in each of these areas.
In Nitzavim-Vayelech, Moses shares his final words with the Israelites.
“Behold, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, inasmuch as I command you this day to love the Lord, your G-d, to walk in His ways, and to observe His commandments, His statutes, and His ordinances, so that you will live and increase, and the Lord, your G-d will bless you in the land to which you are coming to take possession of it. But if your heart deviates and you do not listen . . . I declare to you on this day that you will surely perish . . . I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. You shall choose life, so that you and your offspring shall live.”
— Deuteronomy 30: 15-19
So maybe what we need to be asking ourselves, really, is whether or not we consistently chose “life,” and what exactly that means to us.
I have always been one to measure successes on Rosh Hashanah. I look at my grades and think about how many friends I have and how many fights I’ve gotten in with my parents. I judge myself for things I’m fairly certain G-d cares very little about, like a C+ in Psychology.
I struggle with the difference between failure and sin, and often find myself repenting for things that require no apology.
So, this year, with Rosh Hashanah around the corner, I’m trying to keep in mind the covenant our ancestors made with G-d during this week’s parshah: to choose life so that I may receive the blessings from G-d. And as strange as it is to say, I’ve made the decision for myself that this year that choosing life actually means slacking off a little bit.
It means taking a lighter class load if I can spend more time with my friends. It means occasionally being sassy to my parents (sorry mom and dad) because that’s what normal teenagers do.
It means being spontaneous and living life to the fullest – trying new things even if they’re scary, taking the chance to meet new people, spending less time assessing my life and more time simply living it.
Because the truth is that if I’m constantly reflecting on being the best student, best daughter, best friend, I miss out on being the best me and living life how I truly want to live it.
About the writer
Rachel LaVictoire (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a graduate of the Davis Academy and Westminster High School, recipient of the prestigious Nemerov Writing and Thomas H. Elliott Merit scholarships at Washington University of St. Louis and an active member of Temple Emanu-El and the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta. She was recently named to the board of St. Louis Hillel.