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Here is a short piece I recently published in preparation for Rosh Hashanah.

Constant Reflection on Life

Aug. 27, 2013    

Written by
Rabbi Bryan Kinzbrunner
Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living, Franklin
A common theme in today’s self-help books discusses our need to slow down and tune out the daily grind of our constantly connected lives. Religious thinkers through the ages espoused the same concept of slowing down in the context of spiritual growth. For example, Jewish prayer practice includes discussion about the need for a full hour of preparation to achieve proper intent during prayer, as well as an hour long cool-down process post-services. Imagine having the luxury of not rushing from one venue to the next when connecting with the divine. Slowing down is often a modern term for giving oneself time to reflect and examine one’s life. A life lived in reflection is a life full of growth.

In my work with the elderly and with the terminally ill, I am often exposed to the grand questions of life through the eyes of people facing mortality. These penetrating questions are frequently expressed in the negative, through what someone regrets when looking back. A recent book was written by a nurse who spent years working with the dying. She highlights the regrets her patients shared with her. The sense of remorse relates to missing out on what each deems very valuable in life. The elderly often try to convey to their descendants how living life constantly on the go prevents one from enjoying the happy and sweet aspects of life, such as spending time with family and friends or leaving a lasting legacy for future generations.

With the upcoming holiday of Rosh Hashanah, which celebrates the Jewish New Year starting on Wednesday, Jews around the world have the opportunity to reflect on how they lived life this past year. The recently retired former Chief Rabbi of England, Lord Jonathan Sacks, offers a very poignant set of questions we need to ask ourselves at a time of new beginning, such as a new year. Regarding Rosh Hashanah, he states, “Properly entered into, this is a potentially life-changing experience. It forces us to ask the most fateful questions we will ever ask: Who am I? Why am I here? How shall I live? How have I lived until now? How have I used G-d’s greatest gift: time? Who have I wronged and how can I put it right? Where have I failed, and how shall I overcome my failures? What is broken in my life and needs mending? What chapter will I write in the book of life (Koren Sacks Rosh Hashanah Mahzor, P. X)?”

New Year’s celebrations can be both joyful and serious. It is a time to start new, and newness always contains a sense of hope. Yet, with a new beginning also comes the fear of what will be, leading people to be deeply reflective about the direction they want life to continue. The task of the New Year is not to let the opportunity for growth disappear. Rather, the Jewish New Year provides opportunity to truly work on improving the meaning and quality of our lives.

Rabbi Bryan Kinzbrunner is the campus chaplain for The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living, which comprises The Martin and Edith Stein Assisted Living, The Lena and David T. Wilentz Senior Residence, The Martin and Edith Stein Hospice, Wilf Transport and the Foundation at the Wilf Campus. For more information, call 888-311-5231, email info@wilfcampus.org or visit us at www.wilfcampus.org.