What Are You Thinking?

What Are You Thinking?

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What Are You Thinking?
A Preparatory Teaching For The High Holy Days

by Rabbi Aaron Lerner


“The thoughts you think create your feelings and emotions. The thoughts you think are the key factor in what you say and do. The entire quality of your life is totally dependent on the thoughts you choose to focus on.”

- Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Gateway to Happiness

This belief, that we are creators of our own reality, can be found in numerous Jewish sources, in addition to other religions’ texts. Even secular stories and scientific research seem to affirm it:

From Hamlet: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

To Israeli happiness researcher and Harvard professor Tal Ben-Shachar: “Happiness is a product of what we choose to pursue as well as what we choose to perceive.”

Choice. Radical responsibility. These are the most important, and difficult, concepts for the current Jewish season of self-improvement. It’s truly mind-bending, even infuriating, to take responsibility for our lives. But it’s also entirely necessary as we prepare for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

This is because Judaism is based on the assumption of free will. We believe that “free will is granted to all people. If one desires to turn to the path of good and be righteous, the choice is hers. Should she desire to turn to the path of evil and be wicked, that’s also a choice.” This statement from Maimonides is followed by his assertion that one “may be wise or foolish, merciful or cruel, miserly or generous, or [acquire] any other character traits. There is no one who compels her.”

There are lot of other people I would like to change. But my ability to do so is almost non-existent. Possibly I can catalyze change with a few well-chosen, humbly delivered words. But unless someone truly wants to change, they generally don’t. Even, and especially, if I yell at them. Which just leaves me. The only person I am entirely capable changing is me.

This week, we will celebrate the Jewish new year. Judaism asks us to come prepared. We make our new year’s resolutions before the holiday. We are expected to arrive having already begun to actively work on ourselves. What can you do in the next 36 hours to prepare?

I hope you will join us as we attempt to support one another in this process as we celebrate together!
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Rabbi Aaron Lerner is Executive Director of Hillel at UCLA and will be leading Conservative services for High Holy Days at Hillel



CLICK HERE TO REGISTER to join us for High Holy Days at Hillel

CLICK HERE to read a recently published article by Rabbi Aaron Lerner

CLICK HERE to read student stories on Why Hillel is Their Home for the Holy Days




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We are excited to welcome back to our Conservative services, Yael and Ronit Aranoff, highly acclaimed performers who cantored eight seasons of High Holy Days at Hillel at UCLA, following in the tradition of their mother and aunt who also cantored at our Hillel for 25 years. 
Together with special guest Trustee & Alumna, Mayim Bialik, and our Director of Jewish Learning and Leadership, Danielle Natelson, the Aranoff sisters create a gorgeous musical quartet.

CLICK HERE for Behind The Scenes footage of this quartets first rehearsal!

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