Dear Readers,

Sometimes, I feel surrounded by critics. They voice their uninvited opinions confidently, and often, condescendingly.

If you are doing anything significant, you have been exposed to them—probably too often. They criticize your work, your appearance, the image you project, the image you are not projecting. They may tell you that they criticize for your own good, to help you become better. Their judgment may come from a place of disdain, but they will assure you that they mean it for the right reason. Indeed, the road to the worst place is paved with good intentions.

Critics can shatter and destroy your self-esteem; they can make you question everything about yourself, your talents, your actions and your personality. They can make you stop wanting to accomplish anything at all.

And yet, constructive criticism can be important. It helps you view yourself and your actions from a new perspective. It shines a light on areas you may have neglected that could use refining, adjusting or improving.

The key is balance. Knowing what to accept, knowing when to withstand. We need to learn how to be true to ourselves—and how not to lose ourselves—while still learning to humbly accept and grow.

This week is the awesome holiday of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. As we stand before G‑d, we make resolutions for the coming year. We take an honest look at ourselves, stripped of external trappings, as our soul approaches its Maker.

The last prayer, Neilah, is the climax of Yom Kippur. Neilah means “closed” because as the day progresses, the gates of heaven that were so widely thrown open are about to be sealed. But on a deeper level, Neilah means that our souls are closed in, alone in an intimate bond with their Creator. The world is closed out; it is just me facing my G‑d.

In these intimate moments, I will pray for many things. I will ask G‑d for the assistance to use my potential and talents in positive ways, and I will ask for the means, material and spiritual, that will enable me to do so. I will pray for all those who are close to me, especially my beloved family, for all their individual needs and wants to help them reach their greatest potential as well. I will pray for my People and for our world; for forgiveness and for healing—emotional, spiritual and material.

But as I stand in this closed embrace of just me and my Creator, I will also pray that I have the strength to know when to listen to outside opinions and when to ignore them. I will pray that I do not become shattered by conflicting voices, but that I have the strength to remain true to who I am and who I know I can be.

Wishing you a meaningful and easy fast, and a year overflowing with blessings!

Chana Weisberg

Editor, TJW