Merens: ‘Being written into the book isn’t a final act – it is the first act.’ | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Merens: ‘Being written into the book isn’t a final act – it is the first act.’


As another High Holiday season is upon us, I can’t help but recall what I thought about as we ended last year’s High Holiday season.

“I am so hungry!”

We all hunger for “things” in our lives. We have physical hunger – such as after a 24-hour fast. We have hunger for loving relationships; professional success; peace in our souls.

I ponder how I chose to “feed” that hunger during the 10 days from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur. I think about the same questions during the rest of the year, but these 10 days are my “Olympics” of personal contemplation and reflection. It is not that I’m hoping for a gold medal, but only that I work as hard as people do who compete for them.

Our lives are quite amazing journeys. There are so many great moments to reflect upon. And, there also are many “not-so-great” moments. No matter where you personally are at as we pass through another High Holiday experience, I hope your reflective moments bring you comfort, joy and rekindle the childhood wonder of all that makes up our lives individually and as a community.

The Rabbis speak of being written in the book and gates that are closing. We automatically are drawn to the question, “What’s in it for me and my loved ones Lord?” How can we not ask this question? After all, we are only human.

So what answers would we want?

Would I really want to know what happens in the next 365 days? Would it even be possible for G-d to tell me? What I’ve learned in 62 (almost 63) years is that there is so much ahead for me and us in the year to come. It won’t all be good but so much of it will be. And, it won’t all be bad – however, I realize some of us feel that we will never see our way out of the darkness we currently are in.

And, most importantly, I believe we have much to say about what we’ll reflect back upon a year from now. We can choose right from wrong – left or right – now or later. In our choices is great power. How will we use our power of choice? Our choices will impact our children and parents. Our choices will impact people we know and people we don’t (and might never meet).

Being written into the book isn’t a final act – it is the first act. The rest of the work is in our hands. Best wishes to you for a healthy and happy new year. Best wishes to you as you make a conscious difference.

We are part of something so great, so vast, it is impossible to comprehend. But we can know that each of us counts. Each of us makes the world slightly different because we’re here. Our choices, our actions, our inactions – all help make the world what it is today and can be tomorrow.

All these thoughts while we are all starving. Sometimes I think my reflections would be so much better if only we could have breakfast on the morning of Yom Kippur.

But the fast is a reminder to stay hungry – in addition to the knowledge that many know this physical hunger on a daily basis. However, when our physical hunger needs are met, there are so many other hungers that we can feed.

We can feed the needs of loved ones; neighbors; friends; and strangers. We can feed internal hungers to be heard; to make a difference; to feed a passion.

I find that with each passing year, I look ahead more than I look behind. It isn’t something I consciously do, I just seem to be more interested in what’s ahead than what’s behind (and truth be told, the older I get the harder it is to remember what happened in a specific prior year.      Many of the years blend together as we get older).

But it isn’t just aging and limited memory that causes me to look ahead more than behind. I love this period of contemplation. I love thinking about what more I can do with my life for myself and for others. I love to dream. I think these 10 days are about dreaming (for me) as much as they are for reflection.

I spend a great deal of time now (and throughout the year) being grateful – grateful for my life; the people in it; and the opportunities to feel alive.

And, yes, I’ll contemplate why we are commanded to experience all these thoughts on an empty stomach. And then I’ll go home and feed that hunger.

Well, at least part of it.

A healthy and happy new year to you and your family. May we all be hungry together in the year ahead.

B.H. Merens is a local writer, speaker, communications coach and musician. He can be reached at or 414-403-0511.