Reflections: Speaking from the heart on Rosh Hashanah

Amy Hirshberg Lederman

Exactly 10 years ago this month, I wrote my first column for the Arizona Jewish Post. “Running to Catch Up with Myself” was an attempt to address the confusion, pain and fear I felt after 9/11. I had no idea a decade ago that writing would become such an important part of my life. And I never imagined how much I would come to value the opportunity to explore issues, concerns and topics that captured my heart and imagination and the chance to share my thoughts with others.

Putting ideas into words and offering them to the world is a bit like parenting. You “give birth” to a story knowing you must let it go — hoping that the world will receive it kindly. You feel excited, hopeful, vulnerable and scared, all at the same time. But most of all, you come to understand how important it is to share the truths that lie within you, even when you are afraid or know that the responses you receive may challenge or hurt you.

And that has led me to understand another truth. So much of what we want to say, or wish we had said when we had the chance, remains unspoken. I’ve heard it many times, from friends, my readers, my mother, my rabbi. The biggest regret most people have is not because of what they did say, but because of what they did not.

In a few weeks we will celebrate Rosh Hashanah. In Hebrew, it means “head” of the year, but I think of it as the “heart” of the year. On Rosh Hashanah we are asked to look into our hearts, not our heads, for the answers to the questions we must ask ourselves. Am I on the right path? Have I done as much as I could this year to be loving and compassionate, a good listener, parent or friend? How do I want to be different next year and what can I do to change?

The beauty of Rosh Hashanah is in its implicit message: We have the capacity at every age and stage of life to change for the better. At the core of this holiday is the absolute belief that the power of personal transformation is not outside us but within us.

This year, when you are sitting in synagogue or nibbling on apples and honey, why not consider making this Jewish new year of 5772 the year when you make the effort to say to others what you haven’t said in years past. This will be the year when you turn to your spouse or partner and ask: “Do you know how much I love you?” Or to a friend you know you have hurt and say: “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”

This is the year when you finally decide that being right is overrated. It’s the year for acknowledging: “You know, I guess I was wrong about that.”

And for all of us who have held on to thoughts, good and bad, or secrets that seem too awful to utter, it’s the year when you open your heart and say: “There’s something I need to tell you…”

And to you, my readers, I would like to share a personal transformation and change that I intend to make in this new year. Over the past 10 years, I have written my heart out, exploring issues that were personal, spiritual, familial and political. But now it is time to try my hand at other things, which hopefully will include finishing the novel about my greatgrandmother Jamilla that I started years ago. So this is the year that I will say farewell (although I hope not goodbye as I will still be in Tucson) as this will be my last column, for now. To all of you who have been supportive of my “Reflections,” I can’t tell you how much your ideas, comments and encouragement inspired me. In trying to find the right words to thank you, I borrow from the great Jewish scientist, Albert Schweit­zer:

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from others. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

Thank you for being that light for me. I am forever grateful.

L’Shana Tova Tikatevu. May this year be a year of blessing, good health and peace for you and those you love.

Amy Hirshberg Lederman is an author, Jewish educator, public speaker and attorney who lives in Tucson. Her columns in the AJP have won awards from the American Jewish Press Association, the Arizona Newspapers Association and the Arizona Press Club for excellence in commentary. Visit her website at