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Max Roytenberg: Making A New Start!

by Max Roytenberg, Sept 9, 2017

Why is it so hard for us to shake off the past and begin anew? Why do we feel that we have to maintain a loyalty to past errors and mistakes? Is it ego? Do we have to romanticize the past to give it a shinier finish so we can find it easier to forgive ourselves for actions prompted by our baser motives? Don’t we have to do that, admit error, before we can choose another course of action?

My Bride often tells me that she finds it amazing how easily I forgive myself for my errors. She holds her misgivings about past actions to her breast for eternity. For myself, when I forgive myself, I find it much easier to strike off in another direction. That one may offer a better course of action, one more likely to lead to a better result.

Maybe it has something to do with my background. As an adherent to Judaism, I have always been much taken by the ideas around our concepts associated with the Jewish New Year. Rosh Hashana, as it is called in Hebrew, occurring in the autumn as determined by the lunar calendar, is one of the major celebrations Jews have every year. It is a happy holiday, a time of feasting and family gatherings, we Jews celebrating that we managed to get safely through another year. And there are lots of wishes expressed that we can do the same again next year, even celebrating it in our spiritual birthplace, Jerusalem.

But there is a serious side to the holiday as well. The New Year will be followed closely by the Day of Atonement, when all Jews are assessed and judged as to what their fate will be in the year to come. So the New Year is a time when all Jews are expected to examine their behaviors, and to make new resolutions that, hopefully, will guide their actions more positively in the coming year.

To do so, one has to search one’s conscience, one has to admit to oneself all those things that we have done wrong that only we know about, the ones that deserve re-consideration. We have to admit to ourselves remorse for our actions that we know have not been correct in the light of our values . Then we have to decide that we will not do those things again. We have to forgive ourselves and resolve to do differently in the future. Indeed, during this season, many individuals go out of their way to visit antagonists to beg pardon for perceived excesses to which they may have been a party.

So you can see that I come by my approach rightly. It was imbibed with my mother’s milk. Judaism is not unique in including this concept within its construct. It seems to be an important element within many religious and philosophical approaches as to how humans should live their lives. The key thing to me is that we have to be able to forgive ourselves so that our contrition can motivate actions toward a new start.

I must admit I always feel refreshed when I am in the position of having cast off the constrictions that were imposed by ideas that I have been forced to abandon. Ahead of me lie whole new worlds of possibilities. That old stuff didn’t work. What did we learn? Where can we go from here? What about that idea that we discarded before as impractical, impossible? Could there be something in it as well? What about what Joe suggested that we shouted down? Maybe we should ask him to explain it more fully. Could there be something in it that we missed? He has had good ideas before. What if we put that idea together with the one we had? Can that give us a better result? Anybody who has spent a part of his or her life confronting problems, and problem-solving, in concert with other people, will know that of which I speak. Don’t moms face this stuff all the time in getting through each day?

Don’t I feel better after I have cleared the decks with an old adversary? Now maybe we can make a fresh start and work together to accomplish common goals that I know we share. Isn’t it great when the difference you have had with a spouse has been resolved and you have returned together to the zone of loving and sharing that you were in danger of losing? Isn’t that more important than things that may have divided you? Aren’t so many long-term relationships built by making new starts over and over again?

The Jewish New Year ethic is a part of how we live our lives each day. Making a fresh start is what we can do every day we wake up alive. We all know there are things percolating on the back burner. We may not want to think about some of these things. We may push them off to the back of our minds because of the unpleasantness they are associated with in our thinking. But they don’t go away. They are the things we will  have to do if we want to make a fresh start in some important area of our lives.

So, pretend it’s the New Year. Make a fresh start! Ready! Set! Go!

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.