We are a little more than three weeks away from Rosh HaShanah, one week into the Jewish month of Elul. As we prepare for a new year, we are taught to spend time closely examining our lives. This is not easy. Some compare this self-examination process to looking into a three-way mirror – the type you often find in department stores. We generally have one of four reactions when standing before such a mirror. The most common reaction: we are startled by a part of us that we never knew was there. Reaction two: we know what is there, but don’t want to acknowledge it, so we refuse to look into the mirror. Reaction three: we stand before the mirror and see a side of ourselves that actually makes us happy. Reaction four: we stand before the mirror and simply see clothing and pay no attention to the body that fills the clothing.
I hope that each of us has the courage to stand before a spiritual three-way mirror this time of year. As we do so, we can’t ignore the soul (our essence) that fills our body. Taking a step back and honestly looking at who we have become will be challenging for many of us. The difficult aspects of our lives, that we have worked very hard to ignore, will be completely visible before the spiritual mirror. We will discover attributes or behaviors that we never knew existed and would like to change. And, without a doubt, we will be given an incredible opportunity to see what makes us truly special, holy.
How exactly do we stand before the spiritual three-way mirror? We do so by performing Chesbon HaNefesh, an examination of the soul. Good news! Such an exam does not require an office visit or a co-pay. It simply involves your time and honesty.Below, you will find the “End Of The Jewish Year Exam.” Take it. I have sent out this same exam in previous years. If you have taken it before, don’t cheat off yourself! Answer the questions based upon your behavior during this Jewish year that is coming to an end. You don’t have to share your answers with anyone. Study your answers, as they are your spiritual three-way mirror. Learn from them. Embrace what you love. Don’t be too hard on yourself – appreciate that some of your imperfections are blessings. At the same time, however, recognize that, with some work, you can change a lot of what you don’t love! Grow. Change. This is what Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are all about. Give yourself the gift of the spiritual three-way mirror.
End Of The Jewish Year Exam
1. Have you taken care of yourself this year? Did you get a physical, go to the gym on a regular basis, eat well, give yourself time to relax and reflect? If you have not taken care of yourself, what has kept you from doing so?
2. Have you taken care of the important people in your life? How have you treated your spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, children, parents, siblings, friends, extended family, colleagues, etc. this year? Would you like to change anything? Are there relationships in your life that need improving?
3. Do you owe anyone an apology? If so, when will you apologize?
4. Have you refused to make amends with someone who apologized to you? Why?
5. Have you been financially responsible? If not, what can you d
o to change this?6. This year, what was your number one weakness? How can you overcome it in the new year?
7. Most of the time you feel________________(fill in the blank). Do you like the answer? If not, what can you change?
8. As this Jewish year ends, what do you regret the most? What can you do to not feel this way next year?
9. As this Jewish year ends, what are you most proud of? Have you congratulated yourself? Do you accept praise and compliments? Are you too hard on yourself?
10. What are you afraid of? What can you do to overcome this fear?
11. What unfinished business do you have to complete before the Jewish year is done?
12. Overall, are you happy with your life? If not, what do you want to see change this upcoming year? List three ways you can make these changes.
13. Have you given tzedakah (charity)? Do you volunteer
your time to help others? Do you have a “cause?” If you answered “no” to any of these things, would you like the answer to be “yes?” Why?14. Have you taken the time to explore your spiritualit
y? If so, what have you learned?15. How do you feel about God? Are you happy with your answer? If not, what can you do to make your answer different next year?
16. If you believe in God, have you been angry or upset with God this year? Have you expressed your feelings? If not, why?
17. Have you prayed/meditated this year? How did it make you feel?
18. What is one thing you want to accomplish in the new Jewish year?