At the New Year, resolve to live a more authentic life

Rachel LaVictoire

By Rachel LaVictoire

Here we are once again. The time to welcome in the Jewish New Year has come. During moments such as these, when we embark on something new, we first tend to undergo some form of reflection—we look back past events and set new goals for the future. We may ask ourselves, “How did I treat my family this year? Did I work hard enough in school? Was I always sure to be there for my friends?”

While these are all good questions there may be a better way to frame things in terms of choices. For example, instead of asking yourself how you treated your family, it may be worthwhile to ask yourself how you chose to show your family you loved them? Instead of asking if you worked hard in school, ask yourself about the times you chose between working and not working.

I think this helps with a problem I struggle with during times like Rosh Hashanah and that is the difficulty of assessing yourself. It’s easy to say, “Well sure I treated my family pretty well,” but really when was the last time you chose to go out of your way to show them your love? It’s easy to look at your grades and tell yourself you didn’t work hard enough, but thinking about each and every choice you made to sacrifice something else in order to study, might make you feel much better about yourself.

After asking detail-oriented questions, we tend to look big picture—how do I feel about my life currently, and what could I have done differently to change it? Here’s where this week’s Torah portion, Nitzavim-Vayelech, brings an interesting perspective.

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Moses gives his final words to the Israelites during which he says the following:

“Behold, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, inasmuch as I command you this day to love the Lord, your G-d, to walk in His ways, and to observe His commandments, His statutes, and His ordinances, so that you will live and increase, and the Lord, your G-d will bless you in the land to which you are coming to take possession of it. But if your heart deviates and you do not listen… I declare to you on this day that you will surely perish… I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. You shall choose life, so that you and your offspring shall live” (Deuteronomy 30: 15-19).

So maybe what we need to be asking ourselves, really, is whether or not we consistently chose “life,” and what exactly that means to us. I have always been one to measure successes on Rosh Hashanah. I look at my grades and think about how many friends I have and how many fights I’ve gotten in with my parents. I judge myself for things I’m fairly certain G-d cares very little about—like a C+ in Psychology. I struggle with the difference between failure and sin, and often find myself repenting for things that require no such apology.

So, this year, with Rosh Hashanah around the corner, I will try to keep in mind the covenant our ancestors made with G-d during this week’s parshah: To choose life so that I may receive the blessings from G-d. And as strange as it is to say, I’ve made the decision for myself that this year that choosing life actually means slacking off a little bit.

It means taking a lighter class load if I can spend some more time with my friends. It means occasionally being sassy to my parents (sorry mom and dad) because that’s what normal teenagers do. It means being spontaneous and living life to the fullest—trying new things even if they’re scary, taking the chances to meet new people, spending less time assessing my life and more time simply living it because the truth is that if I’m constantly reflecting on being the best student, best daughter, best friend, I miss out on being the best me and living life how I truly want to live it.

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