Rosh Hashana -- Austen Style  

Posted by inkstainedhands in , ,

After paying a charitable visit to a poor sick family and witnessing their wretchedness, Emma -- the heroine of Jane Austen's novel that goes by the same name -- and her friend Harriet discuss the impact the experience has had on them and how they cannot possibly think of anything else after that sight. They claim to be so affected by what they have seen, that they cannot dwell on the insignificant things that used to occupy their thoughts.

Emma: "...And really, I do not think the impression will soon be over.... I do not think it will."
Harriet: "Oh! Dear no."

But as the two girls spot Mr. Elton, the object of Harriet's affections and of Emma's matchmaking hobby, all noble and lofty thoughts fly off on the breeze, and their assurances are nothing. Mr. Elton takes over every single conscious thought of theirs, and all their passionate exclamations of how impossible it would be to think of anything else but their visit have become meaningless. They care no more about the wretched family they had just visited, for their admiration for Mr. Elton rises above everything else.

How soon we too forget about the things that move us! We go through an experience, vowing never to forget it, resolving to change our lives because of it, believing we will never go back to our old selves, but those resolutions and noble thoughts are abandoned in the blink of an eye.

Each year, as we wait to be judged on Rosh Hashana, we resolve to be better this year. Some people take upon themselves to do something more in the upcoming year in order to make a difference and to be better. We assure G-d that we are quite done with our evil ways and will act differently this time around. Year after year, we say this as we ask G-d for a good year.

Many of these new resolutions we will abandon after only a week, shrugging it off by thinking, "Well, it doesn't really matter. G-d will understand."

But how foolish must it seem to G-d to hear us assuring Him of how well we will behave and all of the good things we will do this year and then see us, our memories completely blank, going back to our old ways and defiantly repeating all our past mistakes just because we find it too hard to keep our promises.

When the Jews were wandering around in the desert, they complained about their situation and questioned G-d, even after the miracles they witnessed at Mt. Sinai, which was so great that it should logically have changed their lives forever. We learn that there was a group of people who did not take that experience to heart. They saw, they heard, they felt, but they did not let it penetrate their hearts. They were, perhaps, inspired for the moment, but they did nothing about it. They made no attempts to make it a part of themselves or to make a commitment. So that inspiration that struck them at that moment was lost soon after, and they went back to defying and questioning G-d.

When we are inspired by something, when our minds are focused on this inspiration, we should do something to make it a part of ourselves. On Rosh Hashana, we are inspired by the thought of being judged, and it drives us to repent and to make resolutions for the coming year. But when Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are over, we more often than not are relieved that it is over so we can go back to our regular lives.

That is what makes us stumble -- we only act on our inspiration when it strikes us, instead of holding onto that inspiration and not letting go of it from year to year.

May our inspiration this Rosh Hashana be real and may it remain with us until the next Rosh Hashana, influencing our thoughts and our actions.

Shana tova.

This entry was posted on Friday, September 18, 2009 at Friday, September 18, 2009 and is filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


“When the Jews were wandering around in the desert”- I always considered the word “Jews” to be a slightly inaccurate name for them..

“that is what makes us stumble -- we only act on our inspiration when it strikes us”- I personally would prefer to say that what makes us stumble is depending on ‘inspiration’ at all, as opposed to thinking things out logically.. …though inspiration has it’s place.. …but nobody’s going to hold onto ‘inspiration’ all year..

September 20, 2009 at 9:20 PM

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