We celebrate the same holidays every year and we read the Torah parasha by parasha every year. Yet there is always something new to learn and discover. Sometimes we struggle finding new meanings and sometimes thoughts come by simply looking from a different framework.
Fortunately, the internet has facilitated finding those new approaches. Here is something I found from the Board of Jewish Education of Metropolitan Chicago’s Online Resource Center. The authors Zaff, Sonin and Manewith looked at Dr. Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences to explore the High Holidays through a variety of modalities. Each of us tends toward certain learning styles but it is also fun to try a different method to see what opens up for you. The article titled “42 Ways to Approach the 10 Days” has multiple possibilities — here are my favorites from each modality:
Logical/mathematical: Use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast blowing the shofar on the High Holidays with blowing noisemakers on New Year’s Eve.
Verbal/linguistic: Symbolic foods (simanim) are a custom of many families. Each food has a blessing that is a pun on the food. Example: “May it be Your will…that we be fruitful and multiply like fish.” Add some special foods and create the blessing.
Visual/spatial: Try making the Rosh Hashanah symbols out of Legos (or other building items). Can you make a Lego apple or shofar?
Musical/rhythmic: Try learning traditional songs or making up new ones. Psalm 150 tells us to praise G-d through dancing and playing musical instruments.
Body/kinesthetic: Feel the weight of misdeeds by writing them down, tying them to rocks and putting the rocks into a backpack. Lighten the load by making a plan to do teshuvah for each.
Naturalistic: This one is easy — try a new fruit and say Shehechiyanu.
Interpersonal: For Yom Kippur, take the money you would have spent on food for the day and donate it to the local food bank.
Intrapersonal: Write a positive vidui — what things have you done well this year and what will you continue to do well in the coming year.
Existential: Read the text of Kol Nidrei and notice that you are asking to be forgiven for your transgressions for the upcoming year. What does it mean to ask to be forgiven for something that you haven’t done?
We each learn and grow differently, and the hope for each new year is that we challenge ourselves to do the sometimes hard, often fun, job of learning which leads to growth. Looking at multiple intelligences gives us more ways to reflect in a manner that is most meaningful to each of us. The Jewish New Year is a happy time and sets us on the course for the year.
Laura Seymour is Jewish experiential Learning director and camp director emeritus at the Aaron Family JCC.