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Rosh Hashanah: Is your Spiritual Portfolio in Balance?

By Amy Lederman

I grew up in a home where money was talked about openly and often. Not about how much money my dad made or about what other people earned, but about how to invest the money we had so that it would grow for our future.

"Most people make money with their hands, but if you're smart, you'll learn how to make money with you head," Dad would counsel me over chicken and green beans. And so, unlike other girls my age, I knew as much about stocks, bonds and price/earning ratios as I did about lip gloss, cheerleading and the Beatles. The net result was that I have invested in the stock market since the time I received my first paycheck.

Looking at my portfolio, especially before the Jewish High Holidays, reminds me of something that my father and I never discussed when I was young – whether my spiritual life is in order. Why the connection?

Because during the Jewish month of Elul, which occurs during the 30 days preceding Rosh Hashanah, we are challenged, as Jews, to evaluate our inner life and our outer commitments. This is the time of year when we take a hard look at our relationships, our obligations, our successes and our failings – to honestly assess if our "spiritual portfolio" needs to be rebalanced.

At Rosh Hashanah, we are required to ask ourselves questions like: What am I doing with my life? Am I satisfied with my goals, relationships and commitments? Do I give enough of myself? Where am I in my relationship with God? What do I want to change in the coming year? Can I be a better person, a more compassionate friend, a more caring daughter, a more supportive spouse? This type of hard questioning is called a heshbon nefesh, which in Hebrew literally means "an accounting of the soul."

In financial matters, it takes knowledge, discipline and personal awareness to properly manage a portfolio. These are the identical qualities needed to balance our "spiritual portfolios."

We must seek out knowledge – about Jewish living and Jewish literacy from the many Jewish resources that surround us including our teachers, rabbis, family, friends and community. We need discipline – to monitor ourselves and make choices that will further our personal and spiritual goals, promises and commitments. And we must cultivate our personal awareness – of who we are today, who we want to become and what support we may need from family and community to move forward on our journey.

We are each unique in our efforts to renew our spiritual lives. As with investing, each person begins with a different degree of confidence, a different knowledge base, and different fears or aversions. Yet Rosh Hashanah levels the spiritual playing field in that it gives each one of us an annual opportunity to engage in meaningful questioning and introspection which can lead to personal renewal and spiritual rebalancing. It is a beautiful reminder that we can always renew our commitment to live life with intention and purpose.


Amy Hirshberg Lederman (www.amyhirshberglederman.com) is an award-winning, nationally syndicated columnist, author, Jewish educator, public speaker and attorney. Her new book "One God, Many Paths: Finding Meaning and Inspiration in Jewish Teachings" is available at www.OneGod-ManyPaths.com and other online bookstores.

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from the August 2008 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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