Weeds, Yom Kippur, and a New Year

Writing about Weeds and Yom Kippur in the same sentence may seem strange, but I do not believe it to be so. The series finale of Weeds recently aired and a week later I am in New Hampshire trying to write down some thoughts and reflections as we approach Yom Kippur and begin the year 5773. Linking the two seemed to start making sense.

You see, I started watching Weeds during the summer of 2008 while on Boy Scout summer camp staff (which could also be a strange pattern of events). During “post-camp” we would watch Weeds when we had breaks or were done working. I sat in a tent with some of my best friends and watched what I thought was an absurd show.

Over time, though, I learned that the essence of Weeds, what continued to draw me to it, was that it is not so much about marijuana, but about relationships. Weeds is truly a story about people – family, friends – and what you care about and do for one another. I finally understand why every episode of Weeds makes me think back to that tent in 2008. We were friends. We were a family. And while not so extreme, we also learned and grew together. Just like I continued (and continue) to do with other friends and with my family.

I find it oddly appropriate then that Weeds concluded with an episode about a Bar Mitzvah on the eve of Rosh Hashanah. That Jewish twist in the show was always a plus for me. The characters have had quite a journey in eight years, but what Nancy cares about and what Nancy is trying to accomplish in the last episode is the same as the first: take care of and be around the people she loves.

The conclusion of Weeds is sad for me. It feels like the end of an era. I keep trying to find ties back to my days on camp staff but another one is over. Nevertheless, I keep telling myself that I live my history every day. What I have done is a huge part of who I have become and who I will be in the future. Everyday I strive to be a better person. Some days go better than others. That leads me to today.

The time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is a time for reflection: for thinking about the past year, asking for forgiveness, and making goals for a better next year. As I think about Weeds, I consider the most important things in my life: family and friends. It has been a good year for me with family and friends. I’ve been able to spend more time with family, keep old friendships, and make new friends. I’d like to strengthen those bonds this next year and need to focus on people, not things.

I have had an amazing amount of opportunities this past year. I am thankful for each of them. I am hoping this next year contains many more and is filled with personal and professional growth. Importantly, I want to do my part to help people get along. There is too much anger and hostility – and way too much inequality – in the world. To start, I need to be mindful of my situation and need to be less judgmental.

To all those whom I have offended this past year, knowingly or unknowingly, intentionally or unintentionally, I ask for your forgiveness. To those who have offended me, I forgive you.

Like, Nancy Botwin, I hope that I have done well for those about whom I care. In the last scene of Weeds, she is surrounded by her family. They laugh and they cry – but together. I hope to always be surrounded by the people who I care about and who care about me.

Thank you to everyone who made last year a great one. I hope I deserve the same, or an even better, new year.

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Rosh HaShanah/Yom Kippur Reflections

Last night I went to see the movie 50/50. It was a fantastic and powerful movie.  I think what hit me was how real the story was – and how incredibly relevant it could be. I hope to never experience anything like that and I hope no one I know has to experience it either. Movies like 50/50 typically make me rather introspective. One of the things that I remembered was that I had yet to post some thoughts on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the Jewish New Year.

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement. This period, including the days in between, is often used for reflection and exploring hopes for the year to come. Importantly, it is also a time of asking for forgiveness. So, I ask everyone with whom I have interacted in one way or another to please forgive me for anything I may have done, said, thought against you, whether intentional or unintentional, during the past year.

What a year it has been! I met some amazing people. I have gotten to be better friends with old friends and made new friends, some of whom I wish I had known much earlier. I have learned a lot. I graduated from college with two degrees. I traveled around the world. I explored my understanding and grew my experiences of diversity and inclusion. I started a new job and the next stage of my life.

It hasn’t been easy. I have had amazing people supporting me. Sometimes I have let them down or have done things I should not have done. I am and will constantly challenge myself to do better and to be a better person. I know that I repeat mistakes, but I am trying to learn from them.

This coming year has a lot of potential. The job is still new. I have the potential for a lot of travel – personal, in addition to professional. I am able to spend more time with family. I need to stay connected with my friends, wherever they may be. It will be a big challenge, but I hope my wonderful friendships can and will continue. I also need to meet new people and grow my community in St. Louis. Who knows where that will lead?

Steve Jobs recounted a quote in his 2005 Commencement Speech to Stanford: “If you live each day as if it were your last, some day you will most certainly be right.” He followed that by saying that he asks himself a question every day: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” This could be a little more of a negative outlook thank I like in some ways – but on the other had, I agree 100%. Life is short.  Make the most of it.  I hope that this coming year is one of life, happiness, health, success, and prosperity – filled with family and friends. I hope to be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life. But since I cannot know what my future holds, I need to do the best I can with the life I have.

G’mar Chatima Tova!

Unetanneh Tokef

One of my favorite poems of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur is the Unetanneh Tokef, which includes the ever powerful “On Rosh HaShanah it is inscribed and on Yom Kippur it is sealed” – driving home the point that what we do now really does matter.  Read the words below and reflect on their awesome meaning.  I am hoping only for the best.

בְּראשׁ הַשָּׁנָה יִכָּתֵבוּן וּבְיום צום כִּפּוּר יֵחָתֵמוּן כַּמָּה יַעַבְרוּן וְכַמָּה יִבָּרֵאוּן מִי יִחְיֶה וּמִי יָמוּת. מִי בְקִצּו וּמִי לא בְקִצּו מִי בַמַּיִם. וּמִי בָאֵשׁ מִי בַחֶרֶב. וּמִי בַחַיָּה מִי בָרָעָב. וּמִי בַצָּמָא מִי בָרַעַשׁ. וּמִי בַמַּגֵּפָה מִי בַחֲנִיקָה וּמִי בַסְּקִילָה מִי יָנוּחַ וּמִי יָנוּעַ מִי יִשָּׁקֵט וּמִי יִטָּרֵף מִי יִשָּׁלֵו. וּמִי יִתְיַסָּר מִי יֵעָנִי. וּמִי יֵעָשֵׁר מִי יִשָּׁפֵל. וּמִי יָרוּם וּתְשׁוּבָה וּתְפִלָּה וּצְדָקָה מַעֲבִירִין אֶת רעַ הַגְּזֵרָה

On Rosh Hashanah it is inscribed and on Yom Kippur it is sealed how many will pass from the earth and how many will be born into it; who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time; who by water and who by fire, who by sword, who by beast, who by famine, who by thirst, who by storm, who by plague, who by strangulation, and who by stoning. Who will rest and who will wander, who will live in harmony and who will be harried, who will enjoy tranquility and who will suffer, who will be impoverished and who will be enriched, who will be degraded and who will be exalted. But repentance, prayer, and good deeds can remove the severity of the Decree!”

Gemar Chatimah Tovah!  May we all be sealed in the Book of Life for good!  Have an easy fast!

Some Thoughts On The New Year And Asking For Forgiveness

It is now 5771 — Happy New Year!

I was not ready for Rosh HaShanah to be here this year.  It seemed to be too early – school had not yet even started!  How could it be Rosh HaShanah?  Shortly after Labor Day, it seemed to confirm that summer is over and fall has begun.  Yet, I am not ready for fall to be here.  Slowly though, I realized that I am not in control of such things.

As I attended services, I became more and more aware that it really was Rosh HaShanah.  The readings, poems, prayers, and sermons all make it so real.  It may even be that the timing is perfect for me, as though Someone is looking out for me.  While I had to miss part of orientation to attend services, I did not need to miss school this year.  I definitely prefer this schedule.

I have so much to be thankful for.  I have so much I need to do better.  I have been told by some that I am a “good person” and that I must not have much for which I need to ask forgiveness.  I am glad that is the opinion those people have of me.  Nevertheless, I know that I have done things that I should not have done, not done things that I should have done, not performed my best, ignored people, hurt people, and not always done what I could (e.g. in relation to my understanding of others and trying to make the world a better place) during the past year.

I know that it is impossible to be perfect — but, I know I can do better.  And I will.

As the New Year begins, I am making a commitment to myself, to God, and to everyone with whom I will interact to improve and become a better person.  I want to use my influence for good.  I want to be less judgmental (non-judgmental would be ideal).  I want to not speak ill of others (or at least make significant strides in this area).  I want to be more understanding.  I am sure I will need reminders of each of these commitments throughout the year.  I appreciate those of you who will help ensure that I fulfill my commitments.

As is customary during the Ten Days of Repentance, I ask your forgiveness for anything I may have done against you this past year, any sins I may have committed.  I ask your forgiveness for anything I may have done to/against you whether in person or without your knowledge/behind your back, knowingly or unknowingly.  I apologize for any pain I may have caused you.  If there is something I have done that I have not proactively addressed, please let me know as I would be amiss in not doing so.

Thank you for being a part of my life, however large or small.  As we continue towards Yom Kippur I extend wishes of a sweet, happy new year full of health, peace, and prosperity.

May we all be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life.

שנה טובה ומתוקה