Hoping to illustrate an important and timeless lesson before the new year, the story tells of a rabbi who stood before members of the congregation one evening and held up a glass of water. The rabbi asked all who were present: “How heavy is this glass of water I am holding?”
Congregants called out answers that ranged from 8 ounces to 20 ounces.
The rabbi replied: “All fair guesses, but in truth, the accurate weight is irrelevant. What matters is how long I attempt to hold it. If I hold it up for a minute, that’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I will likely develop a cramp and ache in my arm. And if I hold it for a day, I might need an ambulance! In each case, the weight of the glass of water does not change, but the longer I hold onto it, the heavier and more serious it becomes.”
Placing the glass of water on the podium, the rabbi went on: “The same is true when we continue to hold onto problems, unresolved conflicts, life’s stresses and emotional baggage for too long. Sooner or later, the weight of these burdens becomes unbearably heavy. The obvious lesson is that, just like the glass of water, we have to put things down for a while before trying to hold it all up again. When we are feeling refreshed, we will then possess the necessary strength to carry any new challenges we might pick up in the future.”
The message of this brief illustration is especially timely for this season.
Before Rosh Hashanah arrives and we start a new year, we should take advantage of this time to address — and possibly even put away — the individual burdens we have likely been carrying far too long.
Devote some attention to the relationships in our lives that need repairing. Assess the issues weighing us down emotionally and make a plan to unload them. Reflect on the ways we might not have been our best selves in the year that is ending and determine to be better in the year ahead.
Each of us undoubtedly appreciates the fact that life is complex. While we pray for boundless blessings, we understand and acknowledge that the year ahead will also present us with new challenges and conflicts. Thus, if we take the time to address and resolve the issues weighing us down now, we will be prepared to enter 5778 with refreshed spirits, renewed strength and firm resolve to not only relish the joys, but also confront whatever challenges await us in the days to come.
Along with my colleagues at Temple Sinai — Rabbi Brad Levenberg, Rabbi Sam Shabman and Beth Schafer — we are wishing you and yours a shana tova u’metuka.