A Satisfaction Survey for the Jewish New Year

August 30, 2017

I’m waiting for it – the next inevitable satisfaction survey from a company or business that asks: How are we doing? What do you like about us? How have we changed your life?

Just last week, I received surveys from my children’s dentist, my son’s summer camp, a national department store chain, and a dermatologist I never even saw. After I placed a take-out order at a neighborhood pizzeria and while we still were wiping the grease from our hands, the pizzeria called our home: How did you enjoy your meal? Do you have any suggestions for us? Hmm… How about this: I love the slight hint of basil in the sauce, but it sure would be nice not to be interrupted during dinner!

Likewise, after a recent hotel stay, I received the company’s how-did-we-do e-mail. In my reply, I mentioned the slight daily annoyance caused when the housekeeping staff unplugged the bedside clock when cleaning the room. Perhaps, I thought, my comment would save some future guest the hassle of plugging it back in – or worse, oversleeping on the morning of an important meeting or interview.

Even if these businesses aren’t completely altruistic in their motives to improve customer service and satisfaction, there is something empowering about being asked for my opinion. There’s something Jewish about it, too. In Pirkei Avot, the tractate of the Mishnah that overflows with Jewish wisdom, Rabbi Zoma teaches that the wise person is one who learns from everyone.

As we turn to the start of a new Jewish year, perhaps we can be inspired by the many surveys in our inboxes – and reflect upon and evaluate something important and timely: our spiritual lives. The Hebrew month of Elul, which precedes Tishrei, the month overflowing with Jewish holidays, including Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah, encourages us to make time for daily moments of reflection in preparation for the non-stop flurry of festive and solemn days.

In some communities, the shofar is blown each day to awaken our spirits and help us work to become the highest possible versions of ourselves. What kind of people have we been during the last year? How generous were we with our time, our kindness, and our charitable contributions? Have we been emotionally sleepwalking, merely trying to get through each day intact, or have we squeezed in bits of growth and learning despite our endless to-do lists? If we lecture our children about the importance of leaving a room in better condition than when they found it, are we honoring that goal by leaving the places we visit enriched and enhanced by our having been there? In the coming year, how can we do better for our world, our communities, our families, our friends, and all those we love?

Before completing another satisfaction survey for that rental car or the microwave repair job, think about diverting some of your energy and judgment into evaluating your own “company.” By taking a personal inventory of our satisfaction with ourselves and our actions, there’s a chance that collectively we might all do better. According to legend God takes a survey of our good and negative attributes at this very season. If we conduct our own year-end review and make plans to improve, perhaps the next survey of our own actions, integrity, and goodness will include not only higher ratings, but also deeper satisfaction, meaning, and fulfillment.

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