Journal

Accounting of the Soul

by | Sep 22, 2014 | Editorial

My birthday comes at the very end of August. I did not particularly appreciate this when I was a child. I could not have a birthday party in school, since there was no school yet.

Everyone was focused on Labor Day and back-to-school, and it seemed a very inconvenient time to squeeze in a birthday. But years later, many years later, I came to love my August 31st birth date.

Forty in Judaism is considered the beginning of the age of wisdom. I can’t claim to have suddenly acquired wisdom at that time. But I did acquire a great desire for self-evaluation. So when I turned forty I began what in Hebrew is called Cheshbon HaNefesh, an Accounting of the Soul. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Of Blessed Memory, taught that this should be done on your Hebrew birthday. My Hebrew birthday is the 29th of Av. This is just one day before the beginning of the month of Elul. As the last month of the Jewish year, Elul comes just before Rosh Hashana and is a natural time for contemplation.

My English birthday always falls in there somewhere, so I have for many years undertaken an extended Cheshbon HaNefesh. It’s a time to review where I am in my life spiritually, and I extend it to other areas as well. I review the past year and meditate on where I want to go in the next. What have I accomplished? Not accomplished? Have I done things I wish I hadn’t? Have I grown closer to G-d? My best friend Deborah, a Chabad rabbi’s wife, first introduced me to the concept of the Cheshban HaNefesh. Every year when we go out together for our birthdays, we take time to share our progress in our respective Accountings. It is a ritual I cherish.

I know very well that December is the end of the year on the secular calendar. In January we change the date. However, September in many ways has always marked the beginning of the year for me. Not only does it bring Rosh Hashanah, but it is the beginning of the school year. And I have just about always marked my life by the school year, first as a student then as a teacher, parent, and grandmother.

Back-to-School is always a new beginning, always exciting. So my August 31st birthday is right on the cusp and I have come to greatly appreciate this time.

So have I acquired wisdom over all these years? Maybe some, but I believe I’ve developed enough humility to know I have a long way to go. My Cheshbon HaNefesh becomes more intense with each passing year. I give myself the gift of extra time for writing poetry, especially the Xoem™ – mandala process I’ve developed, and for spiritual reading and meditation.

And the fact that school hasn’t started yet has brought an unexpected gift. My oldest grandchildren have begun taking me out for lunch on my birthday. And what could be better than that?

Wishing everyone a Healthy Happy New Year, a Shana Tova!

Everyone was focused on Labor Day and back-to-school, and it seemed a very inconvenient time to squeeze in a birthday. But years later, many years later, I came to love my August 31st birth date.

Forty in Judaism is considered the beginning of the age of wisdom. I can’t claim to have suddenly acquired wisdom at that time. But I did acquire a great desire for self-evaluation. So when I turned forty I began what in Hebrew is called Cheshbon HaNefesh, an Accounting of the Soul. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Of Blessed Memory, taught that this should be done on your Hebrew birthday. My Hebrew birthday is the 29th of Av. This is just one day before the beginning of the month of Elul. As the last month of the Jewish year, Elul comes just before Rosh Hashana and is a natural time for contemplation.

My English birthday always falls in there somewhere, so I have for many years undertaken an extended Cheshbon HaNefesh. It’s a time to review where I am in my life spiritually, and I extend it to other areas as well. I review the past year and meditate on where I want to go in the next. What have I accomplished? Not accomplished? Have I done things I wish I hadn’t? Have I grown closer to G-d? My best friend Deborah, a Chabad rabbi’s wife, first introduced me to the concept of the Cheshban HaNefesh. Every year when we go out together for our birthdays, we take time to share our progress in our respective Accountings. It is a ritual I cherish.

I know very well that December is the end of the year on the secular calendar. In January we change the date. However, September in many ways has always marked the beginning of the year for me. Not only does it bring Rosh Hashanah, but it is the beginning of the school year. And I have just about always marked my life by the school year, first as a student then as a teacher, parent, and grandmother.

Back-to-School is always a new beginning, always exciting. So my August 31st birthday is right on the cusp and I have come to greatly appreciate this time.

So have I acquired wisdom over all these years? Maybe some, but I believe I’ve developed enough humility to know I have a long way to go. My Cheshbon HaNefesh becomes more intense with each passing year. I give myself the gift of extra time for writing poetry, especially the Xoem™ – mandala process I’ve developed, and for spiritual reading and meditation.

And the fact that school hasn’t started yet has brought an unexpected gift. My oldest grandchildren have begun taking me out for lunch on my birthday. And what could be better than that?

Wishing everyone a Healthy Happy New Year, a Shana Tova!

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