A New Year and Self-Reflection

Hey everyone! Shana Tova- Happy New Year!

Although technically each day is a new beginning, each new year most certainly marks some kind of milestone; how fitting that the Jewish New Year correlates to the beginning of the school year?

This theme of “newness,” adjusting, and starting fresh are especially prevalent in my life as a first year at Brandeis. It may seem as if all of the pieces are fitting together and as if my schedule is no longer absolute nonsense, yet I still have to undergo the standard “new year process”. The thoughts of, “you know… gee, I could have done this better last year…” and the like are not unimportant with changed scenery. So maybe I can’t refer back to an experience in the exact place where I’m sitting as I write this, but perhaps to an instance on Nativ last year or at camp. This standard “new year process” is often referred to as “cheshbon nefesh” in Hebrew, and soul-searching or self-evaluation in English.

People naturally dwell on things they which they could redo and correct, yet there are so many times in which we’re so set on being right and moving on that we let many of our errors slide. One of the themes of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is understanding that humans are in fact quite flawed. The liturgy sometimes is a bit harsh-saying that we’ve been treacherous, malevolent, etc.-but being able to recite and identify with even the most grueling terminology shows that we must attempt to take a step out of our self-righteousness and assume collective or even personal responsibility.

In this day in age, everything is for public consumption. That’s pretty much why I’m alright with giving you all a taste of my own cheshbon nefesh. After all, the first step to self-improvement is, in fact, admitting where you’ve wronged.

I’ll start off by asking myself (and you!) the following question: You know when you do something not-so-nice and even after the normal dwelling period all you can think about with regard to this event is…well…eek? I’ll give a few examples as to clue you in to my thought process-in reverse chronological order.

-So I got into an a cappella group. Woo! But if you know me well enough, you know how much that means to me and how incredibly excited I must have been when I found out. But I think I was so excited I may have spoken a little too much about it… and too close to people who couldn’t share that excitement with me for good reason. So for this I apologize.

-Working with people is sticky business. This summer I was a camp counselor for 3 different groups of campers at different points over the summer (and the same point for some time) and therefore, was working with many co-counselors and multiple bosses. I definitely came into the summer with a very confident attitude about my abilities and experience, so much so that it sometimes made me sound cocky. By the end of the summer, after a turn of events, I realized that my valuable past experience was not all that valuable and I was both emotionally and verbally put in my place. So if this offended my co-madrichim, I’m sorry.

-Last semester, while I was living in Karmiel, I had two roommates. The dynamic was less than desirable (three is NOT the magic number) and this led to many upsetting conversations and fighting. I’m kind of a verbal pacifist, so looking back on this, I get the “eek” feeling. I therefore am apologizing for at times being stubborn, inconsiderate and irritable. And most importantly, for not staying in touch. I’ll get better about that.

These are all examples of things that irk me about my relationships with other people, “ben adam l’chavero,” and are supposed to be reconciled with during the ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. So more generally, since I feel this is more personal than a Facebook status, I genuinely apologize to all of my friends and family whose feelings I’ve hurt, whom I’ve ignored or gossiped about, and who have any not-so-fuzzy feelings about me at this point in time or at any point this year. You too, even if you haven’t reached out to me, are likewise forgiven.

Now that I’ve to some extent confessed my social sins, when the holiday begins, I can focus on the spiritual and divine aspects. I know that I’ve sinned in a purely religious sense as well, but that pretty much between me and the big man upstairs (I think that’s the phrase…).

So, now that I have a paper to write and less than three hours till the fast, I’ll be leaving you to step back into my Brandeisian shoes, which you’ll hear more about next time.

Gmar Chatimah Tova-May you be inscribed in the Book of Life!

      Yours truly,

Hannah Z. Kober