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A Mindful Rosh Hashanah: How to Stop Panicking Before the Chagim

Updated: Sep 22, 2023

We are in the season of looking inward, reflecting on our behavior, and mending our ways.

It may seem daunting.
How does this work (for the specifics, you can ask your local Rabbi or read the Rambam’s Hilchot Teshuvah) ?

What’s the difference between our self- reflection on Rosh Hashanah and the process of mending our ways on Yom Kippur?

There is no vidui or confession in our Rosh Hashanah prayers, only on Yom Kippur.
Rav Akivah Tatz explains that Rosh Hashanah is the day that we work on who we are, or what we have become and the essence of ourselves, and that is why we don’t say vidui about our specific misdeeds. We reflect more on our basic character rather than individual things we have done.
Yom Kippur is the day that we get into the details of our distinct actions and behaviors.

So Rosh Hashanah is the macro soul searching and Yom Kippur is the micro soul searching.

Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of the world and a day of joy and celebration. We try to elevate ourselves above the details and focus on the bigger picture.
That’s a lot of self-reflection!

Mindfulness can help since it is a practice that encourages self-reflection in a kind and non-judgemental way. This season is a fitting time to deepen your practice.

Here are some ways that mindfulness can help us pay attention more:

We can STOP and notice the thoughts, sensations, and feelings that arise, as we are about to act or react, or after we make a mistake, and then notice, observe, and ask ourselves the following:

What stories are we telling ourselves about our behavior? Are we sure our stories are accurate or true or are they stories that we automatically repeat to ourselves?

Does this feel familiar, or does it happen in other situations?

What can we learn about ourselves from this situation?

We can take a moment before we move on and ask ourselves how we want to proceed.
How do we want to react the next time that we are in this situation?

Don’t shy away from understanding your mistakes. Instead try to be curious
about what went wrong.

Noticing our thoughts in a non-judgemental way can help us gain insight and possibly react differently the next time we are in the same situation.
Here are some ways mindfulness can enable us to approach our mistakes with kindness and self-compassion. We can say the following to ourselves:
“Mistakes are natural and human. I’m not alone.”
“I don’t have to be hard on myself because of this mistake and I can try to do better next time.”
“What would I say to a friend who made a mistake?”
“Noticing my own imperfections can help me to be kind to others when I notice that they are also not perfect.”

Self compassion is essential in mending our ways. When we become entangled in feelings of guilt and self-criticism, the task of altering our behavior can seem overwhelming , often leading us to repeat and strengthen the same patterns of behavior.

When we notice and pay attention to our mistakes in a kinder way, they can become opportunities to learn about ourselves, and this can lead to greater emotional intelligence, improved communication skills and relationships, and healthier decision making.

What shortcoming would you like to work on in yourself this year?

Shana Tova!

For a 6 minute podcast about a Mindful Yom Kippur:

Or on Insight Timer:

To Learn More About Mindfulness:

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