You’re driving down the main drag in your city. The weather is perfect; in fact, it’s gorgeous. Your car sails through a green light and just as you approach the next intersection, the red light before you turns green. Yes, you whisper to yourself. You continue on, passing through another green. It’s my lucky day, you think, wishing every commute could be so easy…
Life can feel like this sometimes, like everything is going your way. It’s a good feeling and often times it’s well earned. But no matter how many green lights we fly through, we’re bound to hit a red light now and again—a time in our lives when things don’t go smoothly. But what if every time we hit an obstacle in our path we turned to go a different direction? We’d never get anywhere! We’d spend our lives wandering about, never really accomplishing anything. Obstacles happen for a reason, as Michael Berg reminds us in Secrets of the Bible, “We didn't come into this world just to walk around locks and challenges. We are supposed to push ourselves when things get difficult. And there is no opening unless we go through a lock.”
Rosh Hashanah can feel like a similar intersection. Just when you start to pick up speed, you hit the New Year when we pause to dig up the past, no matter how painful it might be, so we can correct negativity and proceed. Without awareness, we stumble through and continue on with the status quo. But the New Year provides an opportunity that is unique to other speed bumps we may hit during the year. With consciousness, we can pass through the threshold of the New Year stronger and more connected than before.
Paul Thagard, author of The Brain and the Meaning of Life, suggests we use the word “prosilient” to describe this experience. He states, “Even better than resilience is the ability of a person, ecology, economy, or other system to respond to difficulties by getting better, not just recovering to a previous state…Prosilient isn’t being proactive, which requires acting in advance to deal with anticipated problems. The world is often too uncertain to enable us to be proactive, but we can respond to unexpected events by trying to improve our overall situations rather than just reverting to the previous state.” Thagard’s proposed use of the word “prosilent” supports a key kabbalistic teaching—that no matter how unpredictable life is, every bump in the road, every red light is a chance to grow.
But ask yourself, without Rosh Hashanah as a reminder to stop and reflect on our spiritual state and how we can make positive changes in our lives, how many of us would actually stop to reflect on our own? How likely is it that we would spend the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur getting real with ourselves, facing our flaws, rectifying negative actions from the past, and making real resolutions for the future? This is not the time to simply try to be a little bit better. This is time for real and lasting transformation, which is uncomfortable. And the truth is, we are about as likely to dredge up past transgressions, as we are to stop for a green light.
Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of a 10-day period in which we earn the blessings waiting for us in the new year. That’s quite a challenge! The biblical chapter, Ha’azinu, is read on the Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, acting as a kind of threshold we must pass through to get to the blessings ahead. Michael Berg reminds us, “When we sidestep today’s challenge, we’ll find a different one next week—but this week’s opportunity will be lost.” The Shabbat of Ha’azinu acts as a gateway. When we don’t sidestep this opportunity, but pass through it, we are able to turn judgment into Light.
Do not doubt your ability to transform deeply. A tremendous amount of Light is available during the Shabbat of Ha’azinu to assist us. Tap into this Light by stopping to honor this opportunity and resolving to change. Kabbalah teaches that every red light is a gift from the Creator. With consciousness, we can avoid speeding through the threshold to the New Year and move forward stronger and more “prosilient” than before. Let Rosh Hashanah give you strength for a sweet year ahead.