Fall is a time of shifting schedules and new beginnings. The easy, lazy days of summer wane as many gear up and get organized for the start of school, a new season, a new year. And as we look to the High Holy Days, it’s also a time for reflection.
“Technically ‘Rosh Hashanah’ does not really mean New Year,” says Lynn Shyman, LCSW and Director of Adult, Child and Family Counseling at Jewish Child & Family Services Skokie Community Counseling Center. “The Hebrew word “Rosh” means “head.” Rosh Hashanah is the head of the year and is a call to remember the importance of ‘head,’ or thoughts above feelings,” says Shyman. “If we disregard our thoughts and attend to our feelings, and we may later regret our emotional reactivity. Rosh Hashanah intentions and goals for the year, whether to spend time in nature or heal a family rift, should be done with a cognitive consciousness about relationships with other people and about relationship with God.”
Unlike December’s New Year’s Eve, where we may boldly declare our old self to be gone with new intentions to take effect immediately at midnight, Rosh Hashanah and the High Holy days specifically call for reflection. “Rather than discarding the past,” says Charlotte Mallon, LCSW and Director of Professional Training at JCFS, “we have our major themes that go with us throughout our lives, but we may take a deeper look at them…pausing at this time of year to look at ourselves developmentally and gauge where we are going and evolving.”
And, it turns out, this time of reflection and forgiveness, particularly when we remember to forgive ourselves in the process, has a therapeutic benefit as well.
Rabbi Dr. Joseph S. Ozarowski, BCC, aka ‘Rabbi Joe’, Rabbinic Chaplain for the Jewish Healing Network of Chicago, shares a translation of a Hebrew phrase common this time of year that essentially says “may this past year with its curses be finished, may this New Year with its beginnings begin.”
“The rituals of apples and honey, new fruits, reflect theme of newness,” says Rabbi Joe, “but at the same time, we can’t fully put aside the past.” Particularly with the work of JHNC, which focuses on illness, addiction and loss, “when we think of people grieving or in recovery, part of effectively moving forward is not to reject or ignore the past, but to find new ways of looking at it, to integrate our past into a new reality or context moving forward.”
However, “when we look for others to forgive from past year, sometimes we overlook ourselves,” says Tracey Kite, LCSW, Associate Director of Community services and Director of JHNC, which offers programs for Jews in Recovery, among other supportive services. “12 step programs refer to unresolved resentment as the number one cause of relapse—and that can include resentment of oneself.”
Ruth Fruehauf, Director of Counseling for JCFS agrees. “Being angry at oneself can lead to feelings of depression. Remaining angry, bitter or caught in one’s negative emotions can interfere with one’s life in terms of doing the things that are important.”
Rosh Hashanah and the High Holy days offer a time for reflection. And, as we look to make amends with God, community and others, it’s a good chance to remember to forgive ourselves to, as we embark on a new year of healthy new beginnings.
La Shana Tovah.
Photo credit: Elana's Pantry on Flickr