By Michelle Cohen
The month of Elul is a time for looking back at the past year in reflection, apologizing for wrongdoings and clearing the slate for a new year. But what happens after? Sometimes it’s all too easy to go back to routine for the next year until the High Holidays crop up again.
But the idea of a new year is not just about looking backward. Every year in January, people come up with resolutions to improve their lives in the new year. There’s no reason why we can’t use this age-old tradition for the Jewish new year as well! Check out these ways to keep the spirit of Rosh Hashanah into 5779 and beyond.
1. Spend time with friends and family
With work, school and a myriad of obligations, it can be hard to find time to come together with your family, but in addition to being a mitzvah, spending time with family is a great way to feel connected to your loved ones. Put the stereotypical “call your mother!” trope to use and stay in touch by phone, email, letters and visits.
2. Find ways to become and stay active
Becoming physically active may seem like a daunting task, but all it requires is starting and following some sort of activity regimen. Consider going to the Jewish Community Center for gym memberships, classes and personal trainers who can help you find the best way to be fit.
Plus, activity doesn’t necessarily have to mean running on a treadmill. Activity in one’s life could be as simple as figuring out ways to leave the house more, trying some after-work activities or taking the kids to the park more often. This could also include activities sponsored by local Jewish agencies, programming from the JCC, plays at Muhlenberg College and Lehigh University, museums to explore and much, much more.
3. Learn something new
This resolution ties into the traditional idea of Jews as askers of questions and seekers of answers. Take some time to learn about something Jewish or secular that piques your interest. Anything from scholarly studies to learning to answer your kids’ endless “whys” is a great way to keep your mind active throughout the new year.
4. Help others
The Jewish community is rife with opportunities to help others. Whether you are interested in donating extra time, money or supplies like food and household goods, there are plenty of ways to give back. Consider volunteering for an organization like Jewish Family Service to help local older adults and people in need of food, or read a story to kids at the Jewish Day School. Spend a day doing a mitzvah at a local place that needs help.
This resolution often stems from gratitude about your own life or circumstances. Find a way to share your joy with others in the Jewish spirit of making the world a better place.
5. Renovate your apartment/house
Although this resolution may seem simple, there are several Jewish applications. Think about including some Jewish art in your home, setting up or refurbishing a kosher kitchen and finding ways to use your space and furniture to bring people together.
If you decide to buy new fixtures for your house, the old ones could help someone in need, whether at a Jewish nonprofit or Goodwill. This is a great way to add a mitzvah onto your home improvement project!
6. Read more
Setting aside quiet time for reading may be hard to fit in a jam-packed schedule, but reading is a relaxing activity that can help you get in a better mindset for the future.
The Torah is definitely an option for Jewish reading, but there are also many modern Jewish books that can keep you captivated. Start looking through the religion section in bookstores and you might even find some things in your favorite genre, like fiction or fantasy. For kids, there are a plethora of educational options, including the brand-new books published on the next page.
7. Eat better
It can be so hard to make positive changes to your diet especially with an all-or-nothing mindset. But there are ways to make your favorite Jewish or secular foods healthier, and include them as part of a healthier diet and lifestyle change.
Ashkenazi food is known in particular for being difficult to make health-conscious, but ingredient swaps like a wheat bagel with your lox or adding more veggies into your brisket are a great way to keep that familiar, flavorful taste while also keeping an eye on your health. Also, try learning about healthier Jewish foods that may be new to you, like shakshuka, tahini, Israeli salad and mujaderra.