In My Own Words - Fall and the new year by Rabbi Rachel Esserman

I recently read that there are more days of summer in September than there are in June. While that may be true, the month of September feels like it belongs to fall. There are clear signs of change: the days are getting shorter, the leaves are beginning to turn different colors and the barbecue truck on Hooper Road in Endwell closed. (The last event took place just before Labor Day, but, for many people, Labor Day marks the end of summer.)
Fall used to be a time of excitement, especially when I was in school. There was something special about school starting: the year seemed so full of potential. Of course, I might be looking at the past through rose-colored glasses because school could be difficult at times. I am grateful that I don’t have to attend high school anymore. However, even with the health problems I faced, I still have fond memories of college. I learned a great deal in my classes and experienced city life for the first time. I also made some friends who are still among my closest friends. In fact, we’ve known each other so long, they feel like family.
With work making summer blend into the start of fall, I don’t feel the same excitement, although I still look forward to the start of the new arts season: TV, theater, movies and books. It’s books that I pay the most attention to now: since my hearing loss, those other forms are more difficult and less relaxing. The funny part is that life gets more hectic during the fall, especially as preparation for the holidays begins. This year, they’ve started relatively late, which means I’d hoped to get ahead and not miss as many weeks of writing. (Since I’m writing this before the holidays start, I won’t know if that will be true until the end of the October.)
Since Elul, the month before Rosh Hashanah, and the month of September run concurrent this year – the first of Elul and September occurred on the same day – there does seem more time for High Holiday preparation than when Rosh Hashanah starts the beginning of September. Even though I live partly in the Jewish calendar, it’s hard to avoid noting time in the secular one. (When people ask me why the holidays come at different times every year, I explain that they don’t... at least, in the Jewish calendar.) One of my favorite ways to prepare spiritually is to subscribe to the Jewels of Elul, a daily e-mail that offers different types of spiritual reflections each year. (Since I don’t get on the computer on Shabbat, I read a double dose of the Jewels on Sundays.) By the time you read this, I should have already done two educational programs on the holidays. There is nothing like having to talk publicly about something to help you mentally prepare.
Fall is significant for a few other things – some professional and some personal. The Federation and The Reporter are starting to gear up for Super Sunday and the 2020 Campaign. October will mark the fourth anniversary of my cochlear implant. When I think about gratitude during the holidays, that’s never far from my mind – as is the wonderful community that helped after my surgery.
We never know what the new year will bring so, in addition to thinking about how we want to improve ourselves and our lives, we should express our thanks to those who have helped us during the year. I don’t just mean apologizing to those we may have hurt and making amends. Rather, we should let those people we often take for granted – family, friends, neighbors, coworkers – and say, “I appreciate everything you’ve done this past year.” That is a good thing to focus on during the holiday season: the good things we have in life, rather than the bad.