Last week at Rosh Hashanah services, I met someone who was freaking out about missing work. “I have so much to do. I can’t believe I am here.” I gave her some lame advice, and later kicked myself for not just being sympathetic, and supportive. I freak out about work in my own way. I just think about it all the time. But ever since I was a kid, I’ve internalized that no matter what, I don’t work on the High Holidays. It has become part of the routine for me to disrupt my life, to just stop and look within. The trick is to find a way to let the High Holidays disrupt your life for Good.
The High Holidays are designed to disrupt your life. I live in Silicon Valley. Disruption is the goal. If you aren’t familiar with the lingo, Uber disrupted the taxi industry, and Apple disrupted the music industry. Here the taxi industry was just sailing along, and suddenly they are clobbered by this online monster that lets regular people drive other people whenever they want in their own cars. The status quo doesn’t like it, but we don’t makes leaps forward without disrupting what is. Disruption is all about non-incremental change.
The High Holidays can be merely a disruption of our routine, an inconvenience that gets in the way of rushing around. Or the High Holidays can Disrupt your life. You can take advantage of this opportunity to look within, and try to find out what causes you to miss the mark. In Judaism, sin means to miss the mark. When we do wrong, if we frame it as missing the mark, we have an opportunity to get it right next time. Do we just sail along, and make the same mistakes year after year? Or, do we disrupt ourselves and move forward?
Rabbi Alan Lew talks about the path to disruption in chapter 7 of his book This is Real And You Are Completely Unprepared. He wrote, “Spiritual deadness is a habit. Something in us want to be dead- wants to escape our reality-and we’ve expressed this desire in a hundred little patterns and habits.” I so relate to this idea. As I’ve shared before, I spent many years as a zombie, nearly working myself to death.
As a solution, Lew points to the teaching of the medieval Mussar Kabbalist Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, who advocates that we change our eating or clothing for a week, to shake things up and bring change. Of course, we don’t need to invent a time to disrupt our eating habits. We have Yom Kippur. Spending a day without food or water will change your perspective. You’ll see something different.
The question is, what will you do the day after Yom Kippur? Is that a time to just go back to the same old habits, or will you take action to make a change? As someone who is on the American Mussar website, I know you have an interest in changing.
I know change is hard, especially with all that life throws at us. The beauty of Mussar is that we focus on the small and ordinary. We make small changes in everyday living. We practice Mussar all year for this moment – now let the High Holidays disrupt your life.
If you want to look within and find those things that cause you to miss the mark every year, take the Soul Trait Profile Quiz. Have you taken the Soul Trait Quiz? Why not take it again?