By Michele Herenstein
A couple who are close friends of mine were having their parents visit them from New York. They were beyond courteous, acting out the mitzvah of respecting their parents. What gave me chills was when this couple gave their parents their own bed. This is huge, making the parents feel as if they were in their own home.
If someone does something nice to you, you generally want to give back. If someone offers to go shopping for me, I would then want to return the favor. When people act kindly, most people want to give back in turn. Mitzvah gorreret mitzvah is the Hebrew expression of doing something good because someone does something good for you.
“Rosh Hashanah is a Hebrew word, meaning ‘beginning of the new year’. So as the name suggests, it is the New Year in the Jewish Calendar. In the Hebrew bible it is known as Yom Teruah, which means ‘the day of yelling/blaring’. It also means ‘Feast of Trumpets’. It is the first holy day of the Jewish Calendar that comes in the early autumn of the Northern hemisphere.”
We’re in Elul, and we must start thinking about what we want to do differently this year. If you’re nice because you force yourself to be, then try being nice because you want to, because you feel it. Try to accept people instead of denigrating them. Try to focus on single people for the job of setting them up instead of just accepting your own marriage and not wanting to work at setting singles up.
Regarding the couple who gave up their bed, we should aim for mitzvot like this; a mitzvah on a higher level. I’m already trying to think about the best way to handle Rosh Hashanah. Praying outside shul lets me have the most kavanah. In shul, it’s busy and hard to focus. I’d rather daven and pray at home and then go to shul and hear the sounds of the shofar.
As young children and teens, kids can be malicious and bratty. As adults, we can show how to be a nice, kind person with the right middot. Parents don’t realize how much “power” they have over their own children.
There are so many mitzvot in the Torah. We have to think which ones we feel capable of taking on this year. And as I’ve mentioned, we should always thank Hashem.
Thank you, Hashem, for helping to pick out the mitzvot I should focus on this year.
- I want my personality to be sweeter.
- I want to help older people by taking them for walks and for coffee.
- I want to strengthen my relationship with my best friend.
- I want to thank Hashem for letting me live through another year.
- May I be able to apologize to the people I’ve hurt.
- May I befriend the lonely people.
“Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is a time when Jews celebrate the good things they have experienced in the previous year, and also when they reflect on hopes and dreams for the coming year. But Rosh Hashanah is not only festive; it is also a solemn time, a prelude to Yom Kippur, the Day of Judgment. Rosh Hashanah inaugurates the Days of Awe, ten days during which Jews reflect on their conduct, make amends for past wrongs, and set themselves to do better in the coming year. The symbols of Rosh Hashanah — shofar, apples, and honey, round challah with raisins, and pomegranates — reflect these different layers of the holiday.” (My Jewish Learning)
I’ve mentioned respect for our parents. But what about respect for other people? It’s time to think about how we communicate with others. Are we on the defensive? Or are our hearts open to kindness, and respect for our friends?
A “new” year means new ways to do things. If the people we spend time with speak lashon ha’ra, you either make new friends, or try to change the way others talk. I believe other people will respect the effort put in on changing our ways. Especially Hashem.
Hashem wants us to do the right things. He wants us to choose to do good. And He is there to help us. Our job is to pray. We can ask Hashem for things and hope Hashem will listen to us. We know Hashem hears everything. So how can we talk to Him in a cavalier manner?
Kindness, generosity, sweetness; these are some of the wonderful qualities we should aim for. If the world is kinder, sweeter, and more generous, this would be a lovelier place to live.
Hashem wants us to work at making us a better world. We have the tool: Prayer. Hashem can reward us for the good things we do.
Never give up. That is not one of our options.
Hashem wants us to try. We all have the ability to try.
So good luck; make your best effort. Give up your bed to those above you. And never stop trying.
Michele Herenstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.