The Magical, Mystical Calendar Ride


With Rosh Hashanah fast approaching I thought it important to address the holiday in some way.  I began to consider how I can incorporate the concepts of Rosh Hashanah with my profession as a therapist and very quickly my vision grew from thinking about this one holiday to consideration of the entire Jewish calendar.  I’ve studied for many years about the Jewish holidays with my husband—he fills me in on all of the interesting Gemarot and halachot (commentaries and laws) about the holidays and even feeds me bites of wisdom from more mystical sources here and there.  Over the years I’ve pieced together my perception and understanding of the Jewish calendar from these various angles and I’d like to share it with you now as we get ready for a Jewish new year and participate in the process of doing teshuva (correcting our actions) and asking for selicha (forgiveness) from others and from HaShem.

Our beloved Jewish calendar is filled with an abundance of observances which include holy days that are observed some through celebration and some through restriction.  Most of our holidays incorporate elements of prayer as well as feast, and involve time spent with our immediate families as wells as our greater synagogue communities.  To quickly run through the majors in the line-up:  Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot/Hoshanah Raba/Simchat Torah, Channuka, Purim, Passover, Shavuot.  There are a handful of other less major but none-the-less meaningful holidays sprinkled throughout the year.  Then, of course, above and beyond all holidays is the holiest of days that we are privileged to observe and experience every single week:  Our Queen, Shabbat.  To my knowledge, no other religion in the world has a calendar with such an extensive network of holidays, and with such a highly demanding schedule of observance.  To be an observant Jew is not simply a flight of fancy, but rather it is a marathon of involvement meant to tap both our physical and spiritual endurances.  If we understand the ultimate goal of why HaShem created this system for us, then we can also understand that it takes years to train for this marathon—in fact, it takes a life time . . . and, if I may be so bold, what follows is my interpretation of why.

In my experience, there are basically three types of people in this world:  those who are sleep-walking, those who are waking up, and those who are awake.  Please allow me to explain.

Sleep-Walkers:  Those who are sleep-walking are people who live their daily lives with little conscious awareness of their actions.  Behaviors and routines are route, done from memory and habit, and are little more than robotic.  Every now and then something will “nudge” them to wake up—some bad news, some event of some kind—but in the end they are lulled back to sleep and continue in their original state.  In general, the sleep-walkers do not like to take responsibility for their actions and their lives, tend to blame others for their misfortunes, and walk through life in a victim-mentality trance that protects them from ever having to grab the reins of their own involvement.  Life is two-dimensional, like a flat piece of paper or a pencil tracing the same line over and over again.

Waking Up:  Those who are waking up are people who have been sleep-walking but that “nudge” that was sent to them actually worked and has begun the process of bringing the conscious mind to the forefront of activity.  Slowly the person begins to realize concepts of cause and effect, mindfulness, taking responsibility for one’s actions, learning how to apologize and ask forgiveness, learning how to forgive, and generally begins to put meaning and substance into daily activities.  A new perspective is developing and a new depth of understanding how people and places are connected starts to bloom.  Feelings emerge and dimensions shift as the soul stirs and demands more.  Life is no longer two-dimensional, but the view is still a bit unclear—and often riddled with a combination of joy and pain.

Awake:  People who are awake are not perfect nor do they claim to be, they are simply aware of their imperfections and are willing to take the necessary steps at improving.  They take full responsibility for their actions and the state of their lives.  When challenges arise they face them head-on and look for ways to grow under the circumstances.  Events—good or bad—are opportunities to reflect and refine.  Daily activities are three-dimensional; life becomes somewhat magical as HaShem hints at His presence in even minor daily interactions and happenings.  Interactions with others, even a simple hello with the grocery clerk, are moments of sacred contact with another being of G-d’s creation.  The impact of individual actions is conceptualized in the scope of humanity as a whole.  Our actions—our mitzvot (good deeds) and our aveyrot (wrong-doings, G-d forbid)—are placed in a greater context with an understanding that we do not exist in a vacuum but rather in an elaborate matrix that connects us all.  It is in this third state—the state of being awake and conscious—that we can begin to heal ourselves and others, make tikkunim (corrections), understand the cycle of our souls, and appreciate that we each have a curriculum and path to follow and fulfill in this lifetime that no one else can do for us.

Are you still with me?  I know, that is a lot to take in.  And depending upon where you are on this scale of sleep-walking to being fully awake, you may be feeling a range of emotions from utterly annoyed and bored to elated and intrigued.  But the real question is: how does all of this relate to the Jewish calendar? This is where things start getting very interesting.  For this next part I need visual aids . . .

Again, based solely on my own interpretation of what G-d intended for us, I have come to understand the Jewish calendar not as a place-marker for time, but rather as a highly crafted instrument for spiritual refinement and development.  If used properly with the proper level of consciousness and awareness, the calendar is a means for fulfilling our purpose and elevating ourselves to the highest levels possible over the course of the years we are given to make our corrections and complete our mission.  For those who are sleep-walking, the experience of the Jewish calendar looks like this:

A flat, repeating series of events that go around and around each year with little if any change or personal growth experienced.  The holiday prayers and activities are the same year after year.  If things do change it is more than likely a result of non-action and reactivity as opposed to proactive, intentional measures.  There is usually some meaning in the holidays and the focus is centered primarily around the checklist of prayers and “to-do” actions as well as time spent with family and friends enjoying meals together.  Of course these things are important and provide a sense of accomplishment, yet it is potentially missing one of the most crucial elements intended for us during this period of time:  cheshbone nefesh (literally translated as “calculations of the soul”)  and actual tikkune and teshuvah (correction and repentance).

For those who are in the process of waking, or who have already awoken, the Jewish calendar experience is more like this:

The Jewish calendar, when fully engaged, is a living, dynamic tool meant to elevate us towards our fullest potential with each passing year.  Each holiday brings with it its own focus and area of spiritual development so that by the end of one full calendar year we have been given the opportunity to examine every aspect of ourselves in an effort to correct and overcome our personal areas of necessary improvement.  For Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur specifically, we are focusing on the physical manifestation of our lives—our health, our wealth, our marriages, our children, and our very lives.  We are hopefully inscribed in the Book of Life for a prosperous and abundant year to come.  In addition to the check list of prayers to say and meals to share, we are meant to truly embody the words that we are saying and to allow for the food (and Rosh Hashana Seder for some) to enrich us physically.  Our prayers surround the concept of cheshbone nefesh  (“calculations of the soul”) where we, in detail, constructively review our thoughts, actions, and intentions over this past year and literally calculate where we have succeeded and where we have fallen short.  Without this process of cheshbone nefesh bringing meaning and depth to our prayers, the prayers are merely words like any other.  This is why a person who is actively partaking in this personal review, asking for forgiveness for past actions, and setting clear and honest intentions for the coming year can stand humbly before our King’s court and ask for assistance, mercy, and blessings in the coming year to be elevated through the cycle of the calendar.

We are about to enter into a very special time of year where, through our prayers and spiritual work, we have the power to literally change our lives.  The truth is, we can do this at any point in the year, however for the Jewish soul this is required course work at this time of year with a final grade given at the completion of the Yamim Noraim  (10 Days of Awe between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur).  The month of Elul is given to us as a study period of 30 days to prepare, review, and move forward with confidence.  And we are given until the end of Sukkot to completely get our acts together before our next year is sealed.  In this matter, G-d is more than generous giving us ample time to wake up and do our necessary work.  It has been my pleasure and honor to write to and for you during this past year.  I apologize if anything I have written has offended or upset you as this is never my intention.  Wishing each and every one of you a sweet, blessed, and abundant New Year.  May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a healthy, happy, and prosperous year.  May it be one that brings you to new heights in your personal experience, your family life, level of wellness, and your closeness to G-d.  Shanah Tovah u’metukah!

By: Mia Adler Ozair

Mia Adler Ozair, MA, LPCC, NCC is a licensed clinical psychotherapist and educator with a private practice in Beverly Hills, California.  Mia is licensed in both California and Illinois and she can be reached through her website at or followed on Twitter @MiaAdlerOzair.


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