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Feel the Burn

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Rosh Hoshanah is coming. Step up to the starting line. Wait for the shofar blast… And you’re off.

Running is boring only to those who do not understand it; those who have never tripped on a runner’s high or been calmed by the meditative rhythm of their feet partnering with their will, defying what was previously believed to be their bodies’ limitations.
I ran track in high school and it changed my life. Countless times I stepped up to starting lines, jumping in the air to warm up my muscles to prepare my body for the impending shock. In a couple of seconds, it would be me and five other women in different colored jerseys entertaining fans for 800 meters.

 No matter how many times I stepped up to that line, I was always terrified. Terrified. Little me, feet pounding, lungs hyperventilating, fiercely elbowing objects who no longer are people in my eyes but only obstacles in my hunger for victory.

To anyone else listening, my thought flow would sound like a three way conference call between my mind, spirit, and physical appendages, a little something like this: go go goooooo gooooooo go go goooooooo. Looping. For 2 minutes and 42 seconds.

With four years under my belt of this, I’m prepared for Rosh Hoshanah.

The word shana, year in Hebrew, has the same root as the Hebrew words for both tired and repetition. Jews follow the lunar year and a new month is called Rosh Chodesh. Chodesh meaning newness. For we believe the universe is being breathed into existence through God’s mouth at every moment, always new, fresh, constantly. Yet for the beginning of the Jewish year, we use the word shana, the opposite of newness. For the danger is that one can live and yet be asleep at the same time, unaware of the world around them. Some people think that just because you are running around in circles, you’re not getting anywhere. The days and years blend together, and boredom is a constant painful state of being.

Jews rectified this potential for disaster by wisely choosing a ram’s horn as our spiritual alarm clock. If you remove your ear plugs, you’ll hear the music that will energize you more than  “All the Single Ladies” ever could. If you’re not grooving, you’re just not fully conscious.

Make no mistake about it, you are not the same person you were last Rosh Hoshanah. You’re still breathing heavily from the previous year’s trials. You were tested this year, in ways you have never been tested before. You continued running when you thought you couldn’t move.  And you discovered, as any real runner realizes, that the real race is always within you. No matter what place you come in, no matter which girls you pass along the way, when you cross that finish line all you care about is how much you actualized your potential. The pride that comes from that accomplishment exceeds any other compliments you could be given.

The year is in front of you, and you have no idea what it’s going to be like. But you know this. You’re going to run it and you’re going to finish. And if you’re brave and optimistic, you are going to give it everything you have, and then beyond. It’s going to hurt. In that pain and struggle is the greatest reward, so you hope you will have the courage to push yourself past what you thought were your limits. This makes you terrified, but that’s not going to stop you from stepping up to that line once again.

We aren’t coming to the synagogues this Friday night to stand for countless hours and confess our sins. We are proudly celebrating our personal victories, with medals hanging like bling bling around our necks, ready to share in the victory with God who is chilling at the prayer house ready for the spiritual cocktail hour. Yeah God, thanks for all the help, ready for the next one, we chant over and over again, swaying back and over. It’s not about the past now, because now you’re about to begin a new race.

It’s a serious moment, for the moment before competition your body tenses expectantly, completely focused on one goal; the finish line and the strategy for getting there. The rest of your life melts away, as your eyes look steadfastly forward.

They say that how your year will turn out is determined on Rosh Hoshanah by the effort you put into your prayers. It’s critical to go into the prayers with the determination that you will be moved and inspired. There is not time for hesitation. The moment you doubt yourself, the possibility of success disintegrates.

We are all runners.

For anyone who truly knows how to live, there is nothing boring about this sport. Wait for it.  The shofar is going to blast at any moment. You better be ready to charge.

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