I t seems strange, this daily davening following Succos and the Yamim Noraim. Gone are the daily selichos, the ashamnu- bagadnu. No more haMelech hakadosh, no more zachrenu lechayim, no more yaale veyavo, no l’eila l’eila in the Kaddish, no Psalm 27 l’Dovid Hashem Ori, no Avinu Malkeinu. All the additions and insertions of the Tishrei period have disappeared. No more do we stop, look, and listen at every corner: Is there an insertion here, an addition there?

Be conscious, be aware: that is the message of Tishrei. With Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Succos coming hard on the heels of one another, there could hardly be any rote service of G-d during this period.

But there is more to Tishrei than Divine awareness; it is also the hopeful harbinger of living during the new year. Be alert, do not allow davening to become the template for mumbling words unintelligibly without thought or concentration. This applies not only to davening, but to all mitzvah observance which can sometimes lead to what the prophet calls mitzvas anashim melumadah (Yesh. 29:13) in which Divine service becomes thoughtless, routine, a result of habit rather than reflection. Can one recite Aleinu three times a day and not fall into a numbing routine? Very easily. Can one repeat Ashrei three times a day and still maintain its freshness? Not without effort.

Tishrei also prompts us to find newness and freshness in everything around us. That blade of grass: look at it closely. That flower: admire its delicate texture. That fresh, crisp early morning air: inhale it deeply. Those fascinating clouds in the sky above us, and the different shades of blue, gray, and pink behind them: Have we looked at them lately? Those good friends: cherish them, treasure them. As in good prayer, so too every single day, awareness, alertness, and focus are the keys to a meaningful life, while thoughtlessness and habit are its mortal enemies.

Rote and habit are also the great enemies of human relationships. Tishrei, with its constant reminders to pause and evaluate where we are and what we are doing, is a prototype for living year-round. It reminds us not to live as an automaton, not to take things for granted, but to strive to create newness and freshness in our interactions with others, especially those closest to us: wives and husbands and children and parents and grandchildren. Just as in Tishrei we frequently had to pause in our davening, so also in our interpersonal relationships it is important to pause, take stock, and remove our lives from automatic pilot.

It turns out, therefore, that there is more to Tishrei davening that just davening. Rather, its complex regimen is a paradigm for the never-ending struggle against the deadening effects of routine, and for transforming ordinary-ness into extraordinary-ness. In everything we do, it is always a good idea occasionally to stop, look, and listen. (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 684)