On July 7, 2003, NASA launched a 150-foot rocket ship weighing more than 3 million pounds to transport the MER-A, a robotic rover for a space mission on Mars. Millions of gallons of fuel propelled the rocket out of our atmosphere. Like a ballet in space, as the fuel was spent, the rocket boosters peeled off in synchronized motion, leaving only the tip of the rocket—a small capsule now a fraction of its original size—to continue on its journey.

Seven months later, on Jan. 4, 2004, asThe video never fails to inspire me it approached the surface of Mars, the capsule ejected the rover with a parachute, and then, its mission over, the capsule disappeared from view. The rover, now looking like a clump of white grapes, was encased with inflated pontoons to protect it as it rolled, bounced and appeared to frolic before finally coming to a standstill on the ground. On cue, the pontoons deflated, and as an opening bud in slow-motion photography, the rover emerged. It is small—about the size of my two-seater Mini Cooper Roadster—and ground crew members were wildly ecstatic as they received the first transmitted signals. Mission accomplished.

The video never fails to inspire me. The rocket was designed to accomplish its task at each stage and then jettison what was no longer needed. Had the module held onto the empty fuel tanks, for example, the dead weight would have dragged the rocket back to earth, where it would have crashed. At every stage, design and function were in exquisite harmony.

I like to watch this video when I have trouble letting go. Becoming an empty-nester has been a big adjustment for me. Downsizing from a beloved, large family home where I hosted many guests was not just a matter of square footage and geography, but recognizing that I don’t have that life anymore. In my old house, my dining-room table sat 14 with plenty of room for people to pull up chairs on the side; now, I can seat six. I painfully parted with most of the baby clothes and toys of my adult children. And for pennies on the dollar, for free or worse—paying people to throw my things out—I let go of many of my possessions that had been like familiar companions for decades.

As I watched my belongings being carted out, I had to stop flashing on movie scenes of Jews being ripped from their homes. I reminded myself that I was selling my house by choice. And my house was being purchased by a beautiful family, and not stolen by Polish brutes cheering my departure and death, as was the case in my husband’s family.

Transitioning with grace and ease is not something I often experience. But as the saying goes, “resistance is futile,” and fighting against reality is a battle I lose 100 percent of the time. Fearing change, holding resentment or clinging to things that no longer serve or work against my functioning optimally in the present is carrying dead weight that will jeopardize the mission of my life as it is unfolding right now. And that’s why I keep coming back to this video.

In a way, each holiday is an experience in letting go. For me, that process begins in the summer with Tisha B’Av, which marks the destruction of the First and Second Temples. Tisha B’Av invites the question: “Where is my true home?” Tisha B’Av reminds me that I am a guest in a benevolent country, but the winds of anti-Semitism are blowing hard with no signs of letting up. I need to let go of a little of that attachment to permanence and the illusion of safety.

Moving into Elul, G‑d came to greet us in the field. Imagine a king leaving his palace without his royal entourage and garb. We also emerged from the comfort of home, leaving behind our facades, and hopefully, our egos to meet in that liminal space between heaven and earth. As a time for introspection and teshuvah (“repentance”), we need to let go of ways of thinking and being that keep us from growing, especially our need to be right and the tendency to be self-focused.

On Rosh Hashanah, the King returned to the palace. The relationship was more formal, awe-driven, in that we recognized G‑d as our Sovereign and Creator. To accept the reality that our existence utterly depends upon G‑d is to let go of the illusion of control. And to face the “Day of Judgment” with humility is to let go of the excuses that we have turned into convincing lies.

Ideally, Yom Kippur, the “Day of Atonement,” is the “Day of At-One-Ment.” On this one day of the year, G‑d descended in a Cloud of Glory to merge with the cloud of man (the incense offering of the Kohen Gadol). To be subsumed within the reality of G‑d means to let go of those parts of you that are ungodly. Besides the obvious letting go of your physical needs, the essence of the repeated confessions is also a process of letting go. If you read through all of the “sins” but thought to yourself “not me, not me, definitely not me,” then you were holding onto your ego—your version of your identity—and defending your right to stay the same. And the failure to let go, to be vulnerable and open, is a barrier to connection (in all relationships).

During Sukkot, we went into a hybrid state of the perfect blend of the physical and spiritual, where we have time to integrate the experiences of the holidays before returning to our so-called normal life. Having moved past “the hard stuff,” Sukkot is a time of joy; however, in leaving the comforts of dining at home to eat in sometimes uncomfortable circumstances outdoors is to remember not to jump right back into the very mentality we just tried so hard to manage. Sukkot reminds us to look to the Exodus from Egypt while looking forward to the Era of the Ultimate Redemption, which in turn soothes the unresolved yearnings of Tisha B’Av.

Now that we are at the end of this cycleHow have you changed? of the Jewish holidays, it’s a good time to take stock and ask yourself, how have you changed? What is your new potential? The lessons of the holidays are not behind you; they should be with you now and for the months to come.

Throughout your life, you will have many missions. What have you completed, and what is there to begin at this new stage of life? What should you be leaving, and where are you headed now? With the cycle of the Torah beginning all over again, we begin anew. But change is not simple, clear-cut or a straight line. Unlike the mission to Mars—the success or failure of which is measurable and quantifiable—life is confusing. The learning process is messy. We have to evaluate continuously and let go, over and over again.

The first words of the Torah we are about to read, “In the Beginning” (Bereishit), are thrilling. And so, we begin again. It’s up to you what you want to bring into this next cycle of your life.