Updated: Nov 7, 2019
Monday, September 23 marked the first day of fall. While we in Colorado may still be experiencing summer-like temperatures in the middle of the day, those days are certainly getting shorter, and the mornings are certainly brisk. The trees are turning colors, and pumpkin spice season is officially here.
On the Jewish calendar, we are nearing the end of Elul, with the holiday of Rosh HaShanah (the Jewish new year) just around the corner (next week!), causing to take a minute and reflect on the themes of the season.
Judaism builds into the calendar regular opportunities to take stock of our lives and make changes where we see changes needing to be made, and Rosh HaShanah is a big one for this. In addition to being the date upon which we start the new calendar year (5780, for those keeping track), Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are called the High Holy Days and the Days of Awe because it is during this time, it is said, that all living things are judged by God, and it is determined who is written in the Book of Life. The days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are called the “10 Days of Repentance,” giving us an opportunity to right any wrongs that have occurred and aim for a better future.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us, “For everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under the sun.” Fall is a season for refocusing and clarifying. Try some of these suggestions for bringing this season to your family in a meaningful way:
Talk about the value of reflection as a step towards self-improvement.
It’s important that kids understand that no one expects anyone to be perfect, and admitting struggle and mistakes is very human. This can be a hard concept for even adults to accept, so model it for your kids. Let your kids see you make mistakes, reflect on them, and not be too hard on yourself or, perhaps, participate in tashlich as a family, taking time individually or sharing as a family what you are “casting off.”
Use this time of year as a time for reflection and encourage your kids to do so too.
Use whatever method or structure works best for you to take advantage of the themes of the season and reflect. A website like 10Q can give a nice framework (in a not-overwhelming kind of way). Feel free, also, to include themes from science, looking at why trees lose their leaves and why plants don’t (usually) bloom during these months.
Identify one family goal to work on together.
We are all more likely to stick with goals if we have partners, so work together to come up with a goal that makes sense for everyone. Possibilities could include getting healthier through food and/or exercise (meal plan or take evening walks together), learning a new board game, or teaching each other something you didn’t know before.
Author David Miller writes, “All the trees are losing their leaves, and not one of them is worried.” Additionally, gardening experts will tell you that there are a number of bulbs that should we planted this time of year as it gives their roots a chance to grow in the warm soil, establishing a foundation, before the cold weather of winter hits. These plants will establish themselves, largely unnoticeably, so that they are strong for the rest of the year. Regeneration and regrowth are normal parts of the lifecycle. This is our time to lose our leaves, so to speak, knowing they will return in time and let our roots grow unnoticed. It is the time to include our kids in conversations about growing and making intentional changes.