What question was at the heart of your life as you entered the New Year?
photo by Tom Levy
The High Holidays invite us to engage with the big issues of our lives.
So, Rabbi Bridget asked those who came to our 2014 Rosh Hashanah services, "What question is at the heart of your life right now?"
Not one that will be answered in time--for example: “Will my family member get the new job she wants?” “Will my test results be OK?”
Rather, a question about the meaning and direction of your life. “In the face of my current challenges, how can I stay calm and hopeful?” “How can I love my adult child and yet let him make his own decisions, even ones I don’t agree with?”
Many people shared their questions on our Torah of Life. We call it that because the Torah--Jewish wisdom--comes to life when it speaks to our lives.
Rabbi Bridget invited people to have their questions on their minds and in their hearts and to listen for new perspectives during the High Holiday season.
It is an honor to read these powerful and moving questions, which remind us that we are not alone in our yearnings or our struggles.
By opening our hearts to our questions may we open, also, to the possibility of new beginnings.
How can I be a more loving and kind person?
Why is there so much violence in the world?
How do I grow older with less fear and more love?
How can I find peace with my family?
What does “being a Jew” mean--born a Jew, but ignored it until now!
What career do I want to pursue during college?
What and how is my destiny to earn my right livelihood?
How do I truly live from a place of deep love each day?
How do I resolve the conflicts brought by my stepchildren?
How do I remain fully present in my life?
How can I be happy with the life I’ve been given?
How does one find balance and quiet in the mind?
How do I keep my heart open, let go of my fear, and stay true to myself in love and my career?
How can I learn to balance care for others and care for myself?
How to cultivate the love and community I need while sharing the abundance of love I have to give?
How can I regain focus, motivation, and courage to work for the changes I aspire to see around me and not get distracted by fear, injury, anxiousness, pessimism, or superficial things?
How can I make more significant emotional connections with my friends and loved ones?
There are those closest to me that are facing serious illness at the end of long lives--how do I open up my heart to feel the pain while coping in strength with the pending losses?
Will I find it in my heart to forgive my sister for the terrible way she has treated me?
How do I “respect” family members who I perceive as abusive, narcissistic, selfish, harmful, neglectful, etc.? (I come from a very dysfunctional family!)
How do I fall in love? How do I forgive myself? How do I let go of fear?
How do I make the space to put my values back in the center of my life?
How can I find the motivation to seek a life partner? Is it necessary at this point in my life?
How do I stay compassionate and caring for a mentally ill family member but keep my personal space and safety?
How can I further open myself to love--and cultivate a feeling of love--after my heart was broken? How can I grow and celebrate and actualize myself as I build a loving relationship with someone I greatly admire?
Why are so many people afraid of science, numbers and their challenge to believe in the impossible?
How can I live my remaining years in a way that brings joy to myself and the beings around me?
Can I believe that my life is OK in the hands of the universe--that I can trust in my higher power as I understand G-d?
How can I avoid getting dragged down by day-to-day drudgery? How can I remember to enjoy myself even when stressed?
How can I find a healthy balance between taking care of my community’s needs and taking care of my own/my family’s?
In the face of my current challenges, how can I stay calm and hopeful?
What steps can I take this year to make the rest of my life more meaningful?
What is my life’s purpose?
How can I live a more connected life? How can I get through this time and be a better person?
How can I be an adult after so many years of being a child? and be happy? and be protected? and be fulfilled? and be the same person yet the person I am meant to be? How can I have the willingness without fear? How can I get enough sleep?
How can I be optimistic about the future of this planet and not be fearful to bring a new life into it?
How can I live my life with more loyalty and honesty? How can I right the wrongs I have committed? How can I contribute in a meaningful way to my community?
How do I continuously keep my “cup” full while I am constantly giving? I enjoy giving, through relationships and performance, but I often find myself drained or needing something from another . . . when what I really need is to give it to myself. How do I give myself more love?
It doesn’t make sense to be angered, dismayed and frustrated by the troubles in the Middle East. We have so many troubles at home. Distrust, violence, abuse of power, hate groups. How can I still be open and loving and less fearful?
How can I stay focused at work?
How can I use my newfound independence to discover and be proud of who I am as an individual?
What will I do after my long time friend of 73 years goes away shortly?
What is the meaning of life?
How can I best support my brother-in-law as he faces cancer treatment for advanced cancer--especially when he follows a route I am fearful is dangerous? How can I support my husband as he deals with the potential loss of his younger brother?
How do I continue to find direction meaning and satisfaction as a retiree?
How can I release my inner fears and mental distraction and voices of doubt and manifest my strengths and live every day with confidence and purpose?
How can we love and serve G-d more fully in our daily lives--in all our interactions, in all our activities and in every moment of our lives?
How may I become more present in my life and in my art?
How to harness the goodness and blessings of this year to a future that helps others?
My question is: how to stay hopeful, positive and optimistic about the future when it seems our plant is headed for catastrophic climate change. I worry about my son and the future of all today’s children.
With my many interests, passions, paths, whichever I choose to pursue, the others--put on the back burner--are sacrificed. How do I choose and prioritize? How do I still be true to the ones I don’t give attention to? Can I fit them all in? Son, husband, mom, correspondence, job, union work, art, yoga, family, couple, books, culture, community?
What is my “purpose”? I have a great job and I’m good at it, but is this it?
How can I be a better parent?
How to turn endless worry into endless gratitude?
Is my restlessness an indication to make major changes in my life, or to slow down and appreciate what I have?
I wonder how I can find balance?
How can I learn to let of things I have no control over?
How can I align my livelihood with my passion and values? How can I live a life full of love, family, community?
How to cultivate more compassion for myself and for others? How to cultivate more peace and tranquility in the face of problems?
How do I ensure my children (I am pregnant with twins!) have a positive experience of Judaism and deeply embrace their Jewish identity? (My big challenge is that my husband is not Jewish.)
Help me cope with all the challenges that I am facing and stop asking why my life has been so complicated ...
In the face of my current challenges of a divorce how do I stay calm and hopeful?
How can I help promote world peace?
How will we teach our children to be good people? How can I be more present for my family? Am I making enough of a difference in the world? What role does art play in my life?
The wisdom and grace to face old age and whatever it delivers.
What are the first 10,000,000,000 (10 billion) digits of Pi?
How to stop the constant gossiping?
What is the best way for me to become a person of value to myself and society?
How do I want my life to be and how do I choose myself without disappointing my family and their opinion of what my life should become?
What will I do to be fulfilled and of service?
photo by Tom Levy
Gathering in our tent on Erev Rosh Hashanah / Eve of the New Year
Here are our questions as a "word cloud," a graphic that gives greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in a text.
Which words speak to you and your life right now? Which have you not been thinking about, and might choose to?
This graphic portrays one reason we come together as a community at this season: we are not alone in our questions, our challenges, and our longings.