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Going out to eat is fun. Somebody else does the cooking. We get to select from a variety of foods on the menu. We can get as little or as much as we want. We eat what we want and can take our time, visiting with those accompanying us.

But ultimately, there is that moment when it is time to pay up. "Check please," we say to the server, whose job it is to account for what we've had to eat and drink. The server presents the check with a total amount to be paid. It is at this time that we review the check. Gee, did I really have that many drinks? Did I really need to order all of that? Is this going to blow my "entertainment" budget? How might I have ordered differently? And finally, when I get on the scale tomorrow morning, will I regret my restaurant experience? Hopefully, we are not always quite as obsessive in reviewing the bill as the above scenario might suggest.

Tomorrow evening, Jews all over the world will begin the celebration of Rosh HaShana -- the Jewish New Year -- and commence the period known as Aseret Y'mei T'shuvah, the Ten Days of Repentance. The observance ends 10 days later with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. There are many layers of spiritual meaning and symbolism embedded in this period. Let me suggest one level that, I believe, has a universal relevance for any human being: Heshbon HaNefesh, which is literally "the accounting of the soul."

Just as we review a check at the end of a restaurant meal, Rosh HaShana compels us to "review" items in our behavior of the last year. However, unlike the restaurant experience where the server prepares the accounting, it is up to us to prepare a "list" of our behaviors and actions of the past year. We are commanded to closely examine our lives. Just as I might question an item on a bill, it is now time for a full accounting of my life.

Some of the questions might be: Did I behave in a way that was unkind or unfair? Did I act as a good parent, grandparent or child? Was I fair in all of my business dealings? Did I participate and help to create a better community where I live? Did I address my responsibility to be a good caretaker of God's creation? Did I do enough to help those less fortunate? In what ways might I have been a better person? And ultimately, what might I do in the coming year to address those issues?

Before we can do true repentance -- t'shuvah -- we must do a complete and thorough accounting of our souls. Though the Ten Days of Repentance is set aside for this process, it is an exercise that is pertinent every day of our lives -- just like reviewing a restaurant check.

On Rosh HaShana, Jews greet each other with "L'shana tovah tikatevu -- may you be inscribed for a good year." That is a wish that we hold, not only for us, but for all people everywhere.

NAN Religion on 09/28/2019

Print Headline: It's time for yearly accounting

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