In these days leading up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, our tradition tells us we should be taking stock. We should try to spend a little time each day in "cheshbon hanefesh," taking an accounting of the soul, evaluating our past year to see where we should focus our attentions to better ourselves.
I would like to direct your attention to a couple of tools that can help with your "accounting." The first is a High Holiday Supplement from Tikkun magazine. It will guide you through some very worthwhile questions. It explores problems you may have with family members or co-workers, and what you do to contribute to them; it asks what you have done to take care of yourself, and to take care of the world. Naturally a few of the questions reflect Tikkun’s lefty bias, but someone who was in a different place on the political spectrum could ignore those few questions and still benefit from the rest.
The other tool I would like to point out is Rabbi David Bendory’s Maaser Calculator. It’s a mitzvah to give generously to charity, this calculator will help you figure out how much you need to give to be in line with the traditional 10% tithe. It’s helpful because the way we figure our charitable obligations under halacha are not exactly the same as the way it is figured by the IRS. Some things that are not tax-deductible count, and some things that are tax deductible don’t.
When the scales are being balanced on Rosh Hashanah, may the Holy One smile on you and sneak a little extra weight on the side of merit, just to be nice…