C onsidering how we occupy ourselves on Rosh Hashanah, you might think that the holiday should be named “Taking Stock.” After all, this is the time of year when we examine our behavior and beg for a lenient judgment. However, the name “New Year” implies something very different — it suggests movement forward. Rosh Hashanah invites us into our future. 

What Will Be?

Getting ready for the future does involve some taking stock. Where am I right now? What needs adjusting before my next step? What do I want that next step to be? Planning for the future involves having a vision, operationalizing that vision with specific goals, and then outlining strategies for accomplishing those goals. But plan as we might, the future always remains a mystery. Not knowing what the new year will bring can sometimes trigger anxious feelings.

“I have so many feelings at this time of year. I feel guilty and inadequate because I haven’t improved enough. I feel overwhelmed because of everything that goes on over Yom Tov — so many meals to prepare, so much chaos with the kids home, so many relatives all at once. How am I going to manage? Then I feel worried: The kids are starting new grades, my parents are getting older — will everyone be happy and healthy?”

Rosh Hashanah, which marks the beginning of a new year, highlights the concept of change and starting anew. Unfortunately, change can be threatening and stressful for many people — even when it is clearly positive in nature:

“This is the last Rosh Hashanah when we’ll all be together this way — just my husband and my kids and me. Shevy is getting married right after Succos and then her new husband will join us. Of course it’s what I’ve dreamed of, but I know that everything is about to change. It will never be just ‘us’ again. Part of me is really sad about that. I hate change.”

It’s not unusual for change to provoke mixed emotions. Happy and sad feelings can mingle, as happens when one moves from a cherished small home to a new, larger dwelling, or from one country to another. There are many sides to a human being and many sides to change.

Yet for some people, the coming of the new year marks the lack of change:

“Here we go again. How many years have I sat in shul and cried my eyes out, begging Hashem to send me my bashert? I’m so tired of it. My life is the same year after year; everyone’s life changes except mine. I’m dreading the holidays and the loneliness they always bring.”

One way or another, Rosh Hashanah triggers a flurry of emotion, often negative. There’s so much on our minds and our hearts as the old year ebbs away and the new one beckons. The poignant call of the shofar directs us to change “the locus of our focus” from the mundane to the spiritual, to make sense of the past, to prepare for the future, but most of all to understand the potential for our continued growth and accomplishment. It’s literally a wake-up call. Now is a good time to heal our fear and negativity so we can move forward with courage and confidence.

Stepping Forward with Confidence

Allowing, experiencing, and clearing emotion involves paying full attention to the feelings we currently have. Awareness initiates release. Talking it out, writing it out, tapping it out — whichever way we confront our negative feelings will help them move out of our system, revealing the calm emotional landscape that connects us to our Source.

Like clouds that dissolve to reveal the blue sky, negative emotions block our essential nature. When the distress is released, we are able to move forward with joy and confidence, trusting that Hashem will be compassionate and that our new year will be filled with only the challenges and opportunities that are good for us.

We must work to build a solid base of happiness, gratitude, and faith.The fruits of that labor can be reaped annually at Rosh Hashanah as we step into the new year, not with anxiety or dread, but with true positivity:

“I’ve been working on developing faith and gratitude this past year, both emotionally and intellectually. I finally feel Hashem’s love for me and I know that He will direct all my experiences for my good. I’m looking forward to the new year.” (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 560)