At night, alone, I just sat and waited. Once again I found myself contemplating what I should be doing to do something of worth. Everything I came up with seemed irreverent or irrelevant.
--Patti Smith, Just Kids
Saturday morning in Torah study , as we were discussing Nitzavim and the idea of having one time a year to stand and account for ourselves, one of the participants said, “but shouldn't we do that all the time?”
Of course the answer is yes; we shouldn't wait until Rosh Hashanah for cheshbon hanefesh, the accounting of the soul. Of course we shouldn't wait until Yom Kippur for tshuvah, the turning that returns us to God, ourselves and each other. At the time, I said that, despite that fact, most of us wait until the last minute. We’re spiritual procrastinators, afraid to look ourselves in the mirror, afraid to make a full accounting. As with much else in life, we need a deadline, and the first ten days of a New Year are as good a time as any.
The Days Of Awe raise the question of our intentions. It’s one thing to go through life with our only inner monologue justifying our actions, our choices. It’s one thing to avoid or escape self-reflection. It’s another thing entirely to carve time out to really listen carefully to the still, small voice within.
Rosh Hashanah comes and our intentions are questioned as much as our actions. Did we mean to do the right thing, or to do the convenient thing? Do we mean to do something of worth, or something of self-satisfaction? Surely our actions require reflection as well, but without proper intention—focused intention—our actions, no matter how praiseworthy, will fail to nourish our spirit.