Shalom honorable Rabbi. I have difficulty participating in the prayers and I’m afraid of the Holy days approaching because I know they are a time of prayer and that puts me under pressure. It’s not a good pressure that brings change, but rather a pressure that makes me critical of myself. I tell myself I only like the end of Tishrei, which is Sukkot, and I feel bad that I feel this way because I know that these days of awe are days of kindness from G-d who gives us the opportunity to become pure and forgives us. Can the Rabbi suggest a way for me to calm down and succeed getting through these days with happiness and to do teshuva (repentance) out of love for G-d? Thank you and have a good year.
To the Questioner,
If the holiday causes you to feel pressure don’t ignore it; rather the goal is to incorporate it into your experience of the day.
What you need to know is that every Jewish person alive in these times has countless merits. This is because we are faced with an overwhelming amount of challenges to maintain our beliefs. Every individual soul has its own unique importance above on High.
You should not view the upcoming days as a time of judgment when
G-d’s goal is just to punish the people (heaven forbid); but rather a time when G-d ultimately wants to count all of our merits and to give us just good. Therefore there is no reason to be under pressure during this process.
Yet at the same time, don’t feel bad about yourself if you do feel pressure. Your feelings are normal and you should not try to suppress them. On the contrary, you should include them in your prayers on Rosh Hashana and at some opportunity during the day say in your own words to G-d: “I know that I’m not supposed to be feeling pressure because You only want for my good – but what can I do, I get under pressure. So G-d, please do me this favor and accept the pressure that I feel – which is really coming from an internal feeling of fear – as part of my worship of You and as if I am feeling all of this fear for You; and may You inscribe me for a year of good and blessing.”
If at some point during your participation in the prayers it becomes difficult for you, then go out of the Shul (synagogue) for a short time and find a quiet place where you can sit for a few minutes and think about how you can use the upcoming year in a positive way of growing closer in your relationship to G-d. Think about all the good things that you want to do in the upcoming year, as if you were starting now with a totally clean slate. It is clear from Torah sources that G-d has pleasure even from the good desires that His children plan to implement, and so think about all your potential to accomplish good things in this new upcoming year, or even to fix up things which were not so good, if you have to.
By telling G-d what you’re feeling when you're under pressure, and by thinking positive thoughts of how to best utilize and improve the upcoming year, you should be able to remain in a good and balanced state throughout most of the two days, without suffering the negative effects of the pressure.
In this way, you can actually experience the Yom Tov with happiness, knowing that this is your unique opportunity from all the days of the year to share your most heartfelt feelings and concerns with G-d and to request His assistance in helping you start the upcoming year with a clean slate.
If you do end up feeling the negative pressure during the day, try your best not to wallow in it but rather immediately begin thinking thoughts of positivity and closeness to Hashem – imagine how you will feel on Sukkot. Each time you feel negative feelings creeping up, try your best as soon as possible to get back to a positive place within your thoughts and bring out your feelings of love, closeness, and appreciation for Hashem. What can also help greatly when you start feeling those negative feelings is to verbally thank G-d for all the good things that He has already gifted you and helped you with until today. By focusing on thanking G-d for all the blessings He has already given you in life, you should be able to quickly get back to positive thoughts and a happy heart.
Maintaining this level of positivity throughout most of the day is itself a great merit before G-d to warrant a positive and good start for the whole upcoming year.
Have a good and blessed year,