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How One or Two Changes Can Have a Big Impact

At this time of the year, we tend to have high expectations. During the High Holy Day season, we turn over a new leaf as we pray that we will become the best person we possibly can be. We might not have a plan for how to make incremental changes in our lives, but as we reflect on the words on the (many) pages, we hold ourselves accountable for our shortcomings and dream about doing better next year. We make promises to ourselves that we will do better, that we will be better.

We have high expectations of the synagogue too. We want to be spiritually moved, even if we are not quite certain what that means. We want the melodies to be familiar and comforting but at the same time, to be regal and grand, and befitting the holiest days of the year. We want the sermons to draw on ancient themes that tie us to our tradition, while at the same time being current and resonant with what is happening in the world and within each of our lives. We want the sanctuary to be the perfect temperature – not too cold and not too warm. We want to sit in familiar seats, surrounded by friends and family, but with the possibility of meeting new people and making new friends too.

Setting a high bar helps us to shoot for the stars. To strive. To work toward achieving as much as possible. Sometimes, however, if we do not create an action plan, high expectations can be overwhelming. After all, what does it really mean to live our values fully? What does it really mean to be the best versions of ourselves, and what would it take to do that?

I wonder what it might look like if instead setting the bar so high, we were to commit to making one or two small changes that have the potential to make a large impact. How might that change our lives?

Here is a poem by Rabbi Rami Shapiro that speaks to this possibility:

Here I am.
A little bit nervous, a bit self-conscious.
After all, who am I talking to?
And what have I done?
Am I a sinner in search of grace or
a saint seeking salvation?
Am I so evil
or so good
as to warrant this season of introspection?

And yet here it is, and here I am:
this time of change and correction,
this heart of confusion and contrition.
Oh, if I could change!
If I could be so sure of myself
that I no longer had to imagine the slights of others;
to be so loving of myself
that I no longer had to ration my loving of others;
to be so bold with myself
that I no longer had to fear the bravery of others.

Oh, if I could change
there is so much I would change.
Maybe I will, but it scares me so.
Maybe I won’t and that should scare me more.
But it doesn’t.
So let me pray just this:
Let no one be put to shame because of me.
Wouldn’t that make this a wonderful year?
Heenaynee -Here I am!

On this Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I pray that we will all be able to say “Heenaynee – here I am.” Heenaynee – here I am ready to do my part so that no one is put to shame because of me. Heenaynee – here I am ready to make a small change that could have a profound impact.

Wishing you a shana tova u’metuka – a happy and sweet new year,