We are now in the period between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, a time of heightened introspection. Well, heightened is really an understatement; the judgment on each of us that was determined on Rosh Hashana will be sealed on Yom Kippur. But - there are still ten days of opportunities where we have the ability to change our fates. The Ten Days of Awe give us the final chance to do true repentance and to do real growth. This great writer at Aish.com has ten questions for us to consider during each of the Ten Days.
Question #1 - What should I be grateful for as I begin the New Year?
Life goes by us so quickly that we forget the myriad of things we have to be grateful for: the sunrise every day, our children's laughter, our good health, our sound mind, our parents, our friends, our modern conveniences (hello indoor plumbing!). My husband and I have a tradition, which we copied from a rabbi and his family who greatly inspired me, to go around the table every Friday night and have each person say what they are grateful for for this past week. It is important to remember and to say it out loud.
Question #2 - What do I owe G-d for all of the things He's done for me?
Did you get a new job or new opportunity this past year? Did you meet a new friend who is now your best friend? Did your kid score well on a standardized test? Did you find a super bargain at a store for something you love? Do you owe G-d a simple "thanks" for any of those things?
Question #3 - What can I do to ensure that G-d hears my prayers?
When you converse with someone, what do you do to ensure that they listen to you? You listen to them first. Everyone has had those conversations with people where they felt that they totally were not being listened to, and the other person was just talking and talking with no end. It's the same in our conversation with G-d. Rav Kook teaches that when we talk, it's through prayer, but when G-d talks, it's through the Torah. You want to be heard during this Ten Day period? Then make sure you do some listening (aka studying).
Question #4 - Am I optimistic about the coming year?
Well, in a nutshell, you ought to have something to live for, yes? Otherwise, it just wouldn't work, right..? Ergo, you must be optimistic. Pick a goal for the year, pick a dream - some may call it a "resolution". Choose to do something for the better, and have hope, faith, and trust that you will be able to accomplish it (with Hashem's help, of course!).
(all questions and ideas by Rabbi Benjamin Blech as presented in this article)