Unexamined Life

The Unexamined Life


Everyone gets a certain amount of days off per year.  Generally we
want to try and spend those days having fun. We schedule vacations, we
have labor day barbecues and try and have a good time and relax. Last
year when I took off for Rosh Hashanah I told my boss that I had to
take off for the Jewish new year.  She — as well as others — pictured what new
years is like in New York and said, “Have Fun!”  As anyone who has
experienced Rosh Hashanah can tell you, I would not describe it as a
“fun” time.

Chacham Grossman makes a great point when it comes to the
difference between the Jewish and non-Jewish new year.  In America we
celebrate our new year by drinking, partying and staying out all night
counting down the seconds until the year is over.  Rosh Hashanah, on the
other hand, is a solemn and serious day. It is a day when
every person must reflect on their actions of the past year. We are
instructed to take stock of all our relationships and ask for
forgiveness from everyone.

These divergent methods of greeting the new year give us
insight in to the Jewish perspective regarding our brief time here on
earth and how we spend it. On December 31st, we count down ten seconds
until the end of the year; this is the high point of the celebration.

The preparation for the Jewish new year begins one month in advance,
during Elul. It is not over when the year begins again, but there is a
ten day period of repentance that is connected to the day.

The essence of the Jewish New Year is reflection, looking back on
the past and learning from our mistakes. Although this is a difficult
process for everyone, in the long run it will lead to a more fulfilling
and ultimately enjoyable life.  As Socrates put it, ” the unexamined
life is not worth living.”