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Inspirational Quotes About Starting Anew During Rosh Hashanah and the Jewish High Holidays

Updated on September 11, 2018
Natalie Frank profile image

Natalie is a Ph.D. in clinical psychology who strives to inspire and motivate others, as well as in herself.

Rosh Hashanah, translated as the head of the year, is the Jewish New Year. It’s one of the most important dates on the Jewish calendar and most Jews celebrate it in some way, regardless of the level of observance the rest of the year. Jews mark the holiday by going to synagogue, praying, and spending time with friends and family. Rosh Hashanah introduces a month of High Holy Days which include Yom Kippur; Sukkot, the Festival of Booths; and Simchat Torah, the day when the yearly cycle of reading the Torah is completed and begun anew.

While this is generally a joyous season there are also very solemn aspects to it. Many use these holidays and the days leading up to them to reflect on the previous year and to ask forgiveness for anything they may have done. The shofar, a hollowed out ram’s horn, is blown as a reminder of the importance of repentance and the opportunity to start fresh.

Traditional foods for the holiday focus on sweetness, and the traditional New Years greeting reflects wishes for a sweet year to come. Apples dipped in honey, honey cake and raisin challah are usually eaten to represent this idea.

Pomegranates are also eaten on Rosh Hashanah. We often refer to “planting seeds” to represent the idea of instilling a strong foundation upon which we can build something that will grow and develop into something great. These High Holy Days are a time to establish a firm foundation to provide a stable base that will support our growth during the coming year.

Jews often view the High Holy Day season as a time for new beginnings. They seek inspiration for change in order to develop different ways of viewing themselves, others and the world around them. In honor of this holiday, I have collected quotations that reflect on the themes of the Jewish High Holy Day season.

It is my hope that the quotes I have included here will provide inspiration to make the changes we have put off, to begin something we may have found overwhelming or scary in the past and and to start something new that will keep us vibrant and excited throughout the upcoming year. For all those celebrating the Jewish Holidays I wish you a Shana Tov Umtukah, a happy and healthy New Year. May it be the beginning of a year filled with sweetness for you, your friends and loved ones.

When You Can't Control Change Direct How It Will Affect You

Even without ever determining to change, change will find us. Change is not merely a good idea we should consider, it is a requirement of life. We change constantly. On a physical level we are never the same from one minute to the next. Growing from a baby to a child to a youth to an adult involves huge change, physically, intellectually and emotionally.

Once we are an adult, however, the degree of obvious change lessens in comparison to earlier years. We come to believe that it is 100% our choice now whether or not to change something. In reality change will find us whether we want it to or not. The best thing we can do is to understand this and be determined that while we can’t control or predict every change that comes our way, we can decide we will help direct the change and determine what effect it will have on us. The way in which we embrace change, even negative change in our life, will temper its impact. We can’t always prevent changes from occurring but we can mold them with our intentions and our determination that whatever changes find us we will in turn find a way to make something good result from them.

This isn’t always easy especially when the change involves something difficult or even traumatic. Yet there is always a way. What can we learn from the change? Has the change put us in a different location where we have the opportunity to help someone? Has it provided the chance to become a part of a community when before we were alone? Has it shown us the importance of making up with someone in our life that once we were close to? Has the change shown us the importance of something we dismissed before? What have we learned from the change and how can we use what we have learned to improve our life and the lives of those around us? It often takes a new mindset to view change in this way and it’s not always comfortable at first. But with practice we can begin to see how viewing life in this way allows us to bend without breaking.

Get Rid of Resistance to Change

Often we focus our attention on what is wrong with the world, what seems unfair, unkind, unjust, untrue. In fact, for many of us, most of our daily actions are some kind of resistance to what is already out there. Yet resistance wastes our attention, energy, time, efforts without providing anything positive in return. Focusing on how wrong everything is around us doesn’t help make these things right. In fact, it further creates a mindset which prevents us from engaging in thoughts and actions that will help us correct what is wrong and go about creating a new reality. It is only once we learn how to come to peace with the things we believe are wrong that we can start putting our energy into what it takes to create a better world.

Let Go Of Past Mistakes

Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish, turned his back on his career as a bandit to enter a Yeshiva. He eventually became a great Rabbi and Talmudic scholar. The only way to be able to move from one such extreme to another is to let go of your regret and forgive yourself for mistakes and bad decisions that you have made in the past which can’t be corrected. Only then can you see a new path to a future that you desire.

Commit to Changing What You Can

Change is scary and so making commitments to change don’t always seem so attractive. Yet without being committed to changing something change is unlikely to happen. Permanent change requires permanent commitment.

Often times we can remain committed to changing something short term or only until we notice some improvement. This is why New Year’s resolutions don’t hold and diets don’t last. If we aren’t committed to making permanent lifestyle changes, the results will last only as long as our committed committed and efforts do.

Just as we get into a new healthier habit we can once more re-establish an unhealthy habit even as we tell ourselves it’s just a time limited lapse. The bottom line is that incomplete commitment leads to incomplete results. Making the committed to living your life differently in some way is what leads to permanent change.

Forgive Others, Ask for Forgiveness and Forgive Yourself

Making a commitment to change is a crucial step but commitment without action will not yield real, meaningful results. Yet before we can act to change the present and the future we have to let go of the past. Otherwise, it will act as a lodestone constantly dragging us back to the place defined by what we want to change.

In addition to letting go of mistakes, we also have to let go of our resentment of others who have hurt us. Sometimes others may realize they have transgressed against us and will seek our forgiveness. Most often, though, people either don’t realize what they have done lead to harm, realize it but don’t have the courage to face us and admit it, or realize it and simply don’t care.

None of these reasons ultimately matter as it’s up to them to come to terms with it. Real forgiveness isn’t depending on whether we feel they understand what they’ve done, feel bad about it or have come to hurt in the way they hurt us. That is because that forgiving others is for us not for them. While it may make them feel better ultimately it is to allow us to move forward. We may move forward with or without the other person in our life but it is the direction which truly matters.

Many would say that we should seek forgiveness before giving it to others. However, I think it is the opposite. Before ask forgiveness we need to learn to grant it to others. I feel this will help us learn what we are asking of someone else and better understand the nature of the hurt we caused.

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet shed on the heel that crushed it.

— Mark Twain

This quotes isn’t saying that there is no need to apologize when we have done something wrong. It is pointing out that it isn’t enough to just apologize to someone for wronging them. We have to change our behavior to go along with it.

This means first we need to understand what we did and why it was wrong, or if not necessarily wrong, how it functioned to hurt someone. Expressing that understanding as part of the apology can go a long way to enabling others to forgive us. But ultimately, a true apology is accompanied by our demonstration through our action of how should have acted and how we will do so in the future.

It is said of everyone we need to forgive it is hardest to forgive ourselves. Often this is become we are so consumed with feelings of shame or guilt we can’t face up to what we have done. These feelings often remain even after others have forgiven.

We fear that the things we have done meant that we are bad people or that we are otherwise flawed in ways that can’t be fixed. Unable to tolerate these kinds of thoughts and feelings we push them into our subconscious instead of facing them.

Having the courage to face and confront our worst and forgive ourselves is what ultimately gives us permission to acknowledge what is exceptional about us. Each of us has special qualities that make us unique, talents that we excel at. When we have unresolved shame that makes us feel we are lacking in some way we can’t let our best qualities show. It is as if we feel it isn’t right for others to appreciate the good in us because it is overshadowed by our negative traits.

Each of us has things we don’t like about ourselves. We need to be willing to acknowledge these characteristics exist within us and accept that while they caused us to do bad things in the past, they can be changed. Letting go of what is past while making a commitment to work towards changing unwanted characteristics is what allows us to forgive ourselves.

Change Something You've Put Off

Often the hardest thing in changing something in our lives is taking that first step. Once we are past there, everything else becomes easier. If we establish a path towards a goal and proceed along it, we often find things get easier with each step the closer we get to our goal. Looking back and seeing how far we’ve come reinforces of sense of self-efficacy and gives us more confidence that we will succeed in reaching the goal to which we aspire.

Keep in mind that although the beginning of something new can be intimidating and a little scary, that with perseverance and practice things will get easier. Reminding ourselves of this, can help us get through the discomfort that often exists at the outset of doing something new. Just take one step forward and the rest will follow.

Start Gradually

Making large changes in our lives is possible but these types of life alterations can seem frightening and a threat to everything to which we’ve become accustomed. We become very complacent over time and often would rather stay stuck with something we don’t like than change something that is familiar and comfortable.

Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, also known as Maimonides, understood this which is why he advised taking change slowly. If we focus on putting one foot in front of the other without looking past that single step each one becomes doable. Taking small, incremental steps makes it more likely that we won’t become overwhelmed with too much novelty at once and we can stick with our resolution until we accomplish it. It is okay to take changes slowly. Better to be slow and successful than to quickly fail.

Remember: It's Never Too Late To Change

As long as the candle is still burning, it is still possible to accomplish and to mend.

— Rabbi Yisrael Salanter

© 2018 Natalie Frank


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    • Natalie Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Natalie Frank 

      16 months ago from Chicago, IL

      Being able to keep such an outlook is truly a blessing, Bill. Thanks for stopping by and for reading.

    • Natalie Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Natalie Frank 

      16 months ago from Chicago, IL

      Yes, he really is inspirational and makes it difficult to argue that change isn't possible or just to hard to do. If he can make such a significant change, what's stopping us? Thanks you, once again, for being a loyal reader and adding value to what I write with your comments. Be well.

    • Natalie Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Natalie Frank 

      16 months ago from Chicago, IL

      You are welcome, Linda. Regardless of whether others are Jewish or celebrate the Jewish holidays or not I hope the coming year is a wonderful one for everyone, here on Hub Pages and elsewhere. Best wishes.

    • Natalie Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Natalie Frank 

      16 months ago from Chicago, IL

      Patty - You have a very interesting background, with people born into a religion and others who converted to different religions. I think the joint event is a wonderful thing and that it can help promote understanding between people. The better we we understand each other the more we will connect to each other, help each other and establish a more peaceful world. Thank you for the comments and the well wishes.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Every morning brings me to the starting gate in an attempt to get it right in this life. I find that comforting...the race is never over until I take my last breath.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      16 months ago from The Caribbean

      All great quotes encouraging change for progress. Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish's quote is my favorite here. His story is inspirational.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      16 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for sharing the quotes and the great advice, Natalie. I hope the year ahead is a great one for you.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      16 months ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I appreciate all you have written in this article. Some of my family, although gone now, converted to Judaism; and my pastor is Jewish for many generations back, and he converted to Christianity in college - but he always includes at least one Rabbi in our yearly joint prayer events with other churches, synagogues and mosques. We are also learning some Hebrew.

      Happy New Year and God Bless You!

    • Natalie Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Natalie Frank 

      16 months ago from Chicago, IL

      Thanks, Glenn. I'm glad you enjoyed the article. There were so many other quotes I wanted to add but also wanted to get it out at least while the holidays were still going on. Thanks for following me, my friend. I'll stop by and look at your new articles later today.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      16 months ago from Long Island, NY

      You got this done just in time Natalie. The quotes you discussed are very helpful to give thought to. And your descriptions below each one brought out the true understanding. Well done.


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