Here is a New Year teaching for Rosh Hashanah from Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira of Piaseczna. With a brief commentary, of course!
The Teaching: A New You for a New Year
If it is your desire to be spiritually close to God and to elevate your consciousness, then don’t show up in the 70th year of your life as you did on the day of your bar mitzvah!
Do this character development practice. Every year, set a goal for yourself. Picture it in your imagination. If your name is Reuben—for example—which Reuben will you be in the coming year? What will be his attainment? His spirituality? His virtues and inner life? Use the imaginary Reuben as a template for your self-assessment. What is still needed for you to become the Reuben you imagine? Are your daily spiritual routines and ethical refinements enough to realize Reuben-of-the-coming-year?
Use Your Spiritual Imagination
Imagination, Rabbi Shapira believes, is a great spiritual tool. It can lift us out of the mundane into spiritual realms. And it engages our personal creativity. Important, since there is no one-size-fits-all spiritual path!
Here are some practices Rabbi Shapira suggests:
Do you wish to deepen your spiritual yearning to feel God is with you always? Imagine yourself a small child, separated from your dear parent, longing to be reunited.
Do you want to intensify your ability to feel God’s presence through music? Imagine yourself singing with the angels around the Throne of Glory.
Do you want to become a person of great spiritual awareness? Design the new you in your imagination. Picture your spiritual practices, your attitude towards life, your emotional response to challenge. And look at the picture regularly!
My Spiritual Goals This Year
As I read Rabbi Shapira’s words, I reflect on my own spiritual evolution. When I was a tween, I wanted to learn prayer leadership skills; as a teen, to have long conversations about the nature of God; as a young adult, to hear the Divine Itself answering my prayers. Over the years, I have lived into these goals.
Now, as an older adult, I want to dwell in gratitude and awe. I am climbing a spiritual ladder, to be sure. And I have chosen each rung myself, as part of my own spiritual education. What new rung will I visualize this year? With what practices will I build it?
Questions for Your New Year
- What are your spiritual goals for the coming year? How are they different from your goals in earlier years? How are they similar?
- What resources do you use to identify spiritual practices and exemplary actions to help you grow? Where else can you turn?
- Are there particular visualizations, musical pieces, or artistic images that might help you pray? How might you use them in your personal or synagogue prayer practice?
For more information about Rabbi Shapira and this teaching, click here. You’ll find a very short paper I wrote!