It certainly is a weird thing to celebrate (and I use the term loosely) one’s birthday on Rosh Hashanah – especially when that ‘one’ is a rabbi. (Yes, if you did not know it was my birthday yesterday – #44!). I can say that it is not a new phenomenon for me – being both a rabbi and a he of the late September birthday – to have Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur fall on the same day as my big day. My approach to such confluences is to not make a big deal about it. I know people genuinely want to express good wishes (and this year MANY people did, thanks to the transparency afforded by Facebook!), but, it never has felt right to make it part of what the community does on those day. Besides, the truth is that I am so focused on what I am doing those days, it simply does not FEEL like my birthday.
In general, I still get a flutter in my belly and more than a tinge of excitement about my birthday. Even birthdays that fall on a non-Rosh Hashana or non-Yom Kippur work day, have still felt like a special day. Days in which I enjoyed the external attention and treatment I received and the internal recognition of marking another circuit around the sun on my special day.
We spend a lot of time in our heads these days of Teshuvah-making … do we or can we really make a difference about how we think and the choices these same heads will make in the coming year? My birthday/non-birthday yesterday makes me answers in the affirmative. For everyone in the whole yesterday it was September 29th. No one holds the power to change that fact. If you sent an email, signed a legal document, etc…. yesterday it was and always will have been September 29th. And as much as I look forward and enjoy that anniversary for me every year, this year my mind changed both of those realities. As I experienced the day, in a very real sense it was not September 29th – I chose a different reality. It did not FEEL like a birthday to me … and I made that reality so.
It leads me to a few moments to revel in the power of our minds, our focus and our intentions. While there is much to the world that is beyond our control and influence, there are still some small, significant parts that are only under our control. I think, it is a very important concept to keep in focus, as we spend these next ten days trying to control, influence and affect the realities in which we each live. We control how we approach each day and each moment of our lives – good ones, bad ones; birthdays or not.