practicing the art of surrender and gratitude in the jewish new year

I surrender.

My family and I moved to the Jewish community of Surfside last month, right before our son left for high school in Israel and I spent the afternoon weeping in the airport, along with the other moms.

Then came the high holidays, an intense time on the Jewish calendar that includes the New Year, Day of Atonement, festival of Sukkot, and Simchat Torah. For those who practice, these days and nights involve much food preparation, prescribed prayers, along with a break from work, driving, and technology.

As a newcomer to Torah Judaism — I chose this lifestyle as an adult — trying to follow the laws and customs doesn’t come naturally, and I often struggle with the internal pressure and guilt of getting it right.

But this year, as I work a 12-step program, I took a different approach, leading myself and my family with compassion and grace.

While I still followed the Jewish custom to look deeply within at my character traits and where I need to make improvements, I also tried to practice the art of loving and accepting myself, to quiet the critical inner voice that often tries to lead me.

As I work the ‘steps’ and learn to surrender to my Higher Power, I’m also trying to integrate these universal spiritual concepts into my regimented religious practice. Which — if I’m being honest — I zealously embraced in an effort to soothe my internal fears.

So I’m handing over my fears and trauma, which have been passed down for generations. I’m acknowledging that no amount of business success, religious details, or perceived control over my situation will ever make me feel truly happy or satisfied.

I surrender to the unknowns, choosing to sit quitely and actually feel my feelings as they roll through me.

With God’s help, I’m waving the white flag — finding peace, acceptance and unconditional love, within myself and beyond, in this moment and into the new year.


The Divine Soul: Genesis 2:4-2:19

G-d formed the human out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils a soul of life.

Our soul is a spark of G-d and can never lose its intrinsic connection. With desire and effort, we can ensure this connection remains intimately manifested within our physical being.

Just as when one blows through something, the air can only pass if there are no obstructions — the more we open ourselves to only positive thoughts, words and actions, the more our G-dly souls can connect with and shine fully through us.

Source: Daily Wisdom: Inspiring Insights on the Torah Portion from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, translated and adapted by Rabbi Moshe Wisnefsky


Action: Look around the room and notice your surroundings — the objects, the sounds, the feeling of your body in your chair. Then close your eyes, sit quietely, and take three breaths.

Pay attention to your breath as it flows into and out of your lungs. Repeat three more breaths if you choose.

What are three things you are grateful for at this moment? Say them aloud or write them in your journal.

Example: I am grateful for my turquoise-striped coffee mug that now sits empty, and my ability to go refill it if I choose. I am grateful for this time to write uninterrupted. I am grateful for the blue sky ans palm trees outside my window.

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