Most people assume that Rosh Hashanah celebrates the anniversary of when Creation first began, but the ancient Rabbis also considered the possibility that Rosh Hashanah marks the anniversary of when people were first created.
From that perspective, “Let there be light!” – a celebration of the world and God’s Sovereignty over it – is, pardon the pun, overshadowed by “Let us make humanity in our image, after our likeness.” The essence of the holiday is acknowledging human limits (we are mereimages of the Divine; we sin and are far from perfect) and nevertheless calling us to human greatness. After all, we are awesome creatures, made in the likeness of God, endowed with creativity, compassion, and other Divine qualities.
Use the ASPIRE acronym – a tweak I made to the popular Positive Psychology acronym SPIRE – to journal about what is awesome in human beings generally and in you, specifically.
A (aspirational) – what aspirations fill you with both fear and wonder? landing on Mars? curing childhood cancer? completing a creative project and launching it into the world? stepping into a leadership role?
S (spiritual) – what aspects of the human spirit inspire awe? the bravery of dissidents under tyrannical governments? a work of art that seems to speak from the artist’s soul to your own? your experience of Oneness with God or other people?
P (physical) – what mechanics or capacities of the human body amaze you? the beauty of a ballerina? the endurance of a triathlete? the 26 feet of intestines inside us that digest food, remove waste, and maintain the proper balance of water – usually without interruption or conscious attention? a reflex that took over and helped you avoid an accident? your ability to heal?
I (intellectual) – what new knowledge, understanding, or intellectual achievement has “blown your mind”? the feat of developing mRNA vaccines for Covid in under a year? improvements in Artificial Intelligence? the awareness of what scientists don’t know and philosophers can’t explain? the awareness that you have awareness – and can reflect on your own thinking?
R (relational) – what is awesome about human connection – whether in friendships, families, partnerships or with strangers? what depth of connection with someone else (or even with an entire community) brought tears to your eyes or gave you goosebumps?
E (emotional) – when have you been awestruck by positive emotions, including people’s capacity for love, forgiveness, compassion, and gratitude? when those emotions arose in the face of tragedy? when they demanded sacrifice? when such feelings became mutual, and part of a circle of caring? when you were overwhelmed by your own powerful emotional response?