The leaves are changing, summer is behind us, the Jewish new year is here. A new year means new chances, new opportunities, rectifying the past and making resolutions for a better future. There is something about a fresh slate that feels inspiring, that tells us that this year I can do so much more than I did last. I can do better.

According to Kabbalah, each month is aligned with a letter of the aleph-bet. Kabbalah teaches us that G‑d created that month with the spiritual energy of that letter.1 There is much symbolism and meaning that we can extricate from the letter that is aligned with each month. We can learn from the sound of the letter, the meaning of the letter, and even the technical, structural shape of the letter as it is written in the Torah or in a mezuzah.

The month of Tishrei is connected to the letter lamed.

If you have ever seen the letter lamed, you know it stretches upward. It is the only Hebrew letter to stretch up and reach skyward. We can easily grasp what it means to reach skyward—to connect with G‑d, of course! So much of Judaism is about elevating ourselves and everything around us, reaching towards G‑d and connecting with Him. It certainly makes sense that such a serious, introspective month would be represented by a letter that reaches skyward.

Tishrei is famously known as a time of deep introspection and connection to G‑d. Synagogues fill up with prayer; somber tunes move our hearts. On Rosh Hashanah, we are given a tremendous gift; we, as simple humans, have the power and duty to coronate G‑d as our king. This is an extraordinary time of holiness, connection and strength. It is no wonder then that we feel powerful with the year stretching before us. We are renewing the world, and renewal (like our birthdays) is a time for positive resolutions. We are filled with inspiration and hope to say that this year, we will do better! This year, we will heal! This year, we will not raise our voices at our loved ones! This year, we will observe mitzvot with gusto, and show up as the best version of ourselves each and every day.

During this month, we are like that letter lamed. We are standing above materialism and temptation, like a “tower soaring in the air.”2 Yet despite this seemingly pure holiness, we must proceed cautiously. As we soar in the air with even the best intentions, we risk destabilization and a crash landing.

True, we feel inspired now. But what happens in a few weeks when the inspiration falls away? Will we still bound out of bed with a commitment to be perfect when the workday is calling, our “To Do” list is weighing us down, and snow is falling? The inspiration we may feel during Tishrei is empowering and valuable. It is not by any means wrong, ill-advised or misplaced. It is a beautiful reflection of our connection to this new year. But if we overshoot during Tishrei, then we set ourselves up for broken promises and disenchantment as the cold sets in and reality hits.

The zodiac of Tishrei is Libra, those famous scales. It reminds us about the ever-so-valuable balance—the balance we must all find between heady spirituality and physical reality. The trick is to harness this spiritual Tishrei energy and let it trickle down to all of the months of the year. Luckily, our lamed soaring into the air also has a horizontal line going across, a line that keeps us in balance. It is a reminder that we can transform our entire year with the power of this Tishrei with doable actions, rectified relationships, and by taking on small but steady actions that connect us with our Judaism and elevate the world around us.

Meditation

Breathe in until you feel your chest rise, and then exhale and feel it fall.

Notice your physical form, the fact that you are a soul living in a human body. A body that has so much potential, a body that can do so much, a body that can be pushed to its limits, but a body nonetheless.

A body that requires rest and patience and love.

Be gentle with yourself.

When we are unrealistic with our expectations of ourselves, we grow frustrated, hopeless and give up.

What if we focus on small steps? G‑d never asked us to each save the world on our own. He asked us each only to do our part. This year, we can do our part with consistency and authenticity by showing up each month. We can start small.

Take a few minutes now to consider one thing you can do this month to improve your world, to connect to your Judaism. One person you can uplift.

Do that.

Then, read this again, and do another.