Changing Your Fate for the Coming Year

Our tradition teaches that we can have a direct and active role in changing our fate for the coming year. While our desire to change our lives is particularly strong during the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we can make important changes all year long.

U’t’shuvah u’t’filah u’tzedakah ma’avirin et ro’a ha’g’zeirah.

Turning, prayer, and deeds can change our fate.

Help me to take a good look at my life and give me the courage to make changes I want to make. Guide me on my journey as I strive to make good changes, in myself and in the world in which I live.

Jewish tradition teaches that you can change your fate in several ways:

Tzedakah: Changing the world.
Use your resources and talents to create more justice in the world. Decide: What can you do this day … this week … this month … to make an immediate difference?

Tze’akah: Crying out.
You can cry out about all that’s unfair in the world, but you can choose other equally effective actions, such as letters, petitions, social action, prayers of words, and prayers of tears. Strategize: How can you increase the possibility that your most pressing outcry is heard?

Shinui ha’sheim: Changing your identity.
You can alter some aspect of your identity, expanding beyond the way others define you in your relationships and in your work. Ask yourself: How could a small adjustment in the way you see yourself allow you to recognize your own personal dreams and aspirations?

Shinui ma’aseh: Changing what you do.
You can break some old, familiar patterns of behavior, such as the way you relate to family, friends, or colleagues. Decide: If you were to commit yourself to establishing a new pattern of behavior at home, at work, or in the community, how could you increase the possibility that it becomes habit?


(As you meditate upon the change you will make)

May we all be remembered and recorded in the Book of Life, blessing, sustenance, and peace.

(High Holidays liturgy)


Rabbi Isaac said: “Four things change a person’s fate, namely tzedakah, crying out, changing one’s conduct… and some say: changing one’s place.”

(Babylonian Talmud: Rosh Hashanah 16b)

Will you hear our regrets? Will you release us from being prisoners of habit? Will you accept our prayers… and tune in to our heart’s intent?

(Adapted from the Kol Nidrei service)

Accordingly, throughout the entire year, one should always look at oneself as equally balanced between merit and sin, and the world as equally balanced between merit and sin. If one performs even one sin, one tips one’s balance and that of the entire world to the side of guilt and brings destruction upon oneself. [On the other hand,] if one performs even one mitzvah, one tips one’s balance and that of the entire world to the side of merit and brings deliverance and salvation to oneself and others. This is implied by [Proverbs 10:25]: ” A righteous person is the foundation of the world” that is, one who acted righteously tipped the balance of the entire world to merit and saved it.

(Maimonides, Hilchot Teshuvah 3)

Because the world is a different place each moment I am alive, there is unlimited potential for change.

(Kerry M. Oliltzky and Rachel Sabbath, Preparing Your Heart for the High Holy Days)

Reprinted with permission from The Book of Jewish Sacred Practices: Clal’s Guide to Everyday & Holiday Rituals & Blessings, edited by Rabbi Irwin Kula and Vanessa L. Ochs, Ph.D., Jewish Lights, 2001.


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