It is the year 5773 in the Hebrew calendar. A new year. Jews commemorate the birthday of the world (and start a 10-day introspection period culminating in Yom Kippur, the day of atonement). We don’t sing happy birthday to the world and there is no cake. I don’t think G-d eats cake. And it would have to be accessible to all, so it would be gluten-free, sustainably made and of recycled left-overs of other birthday cakes. But sitting in synagogue makes me pretty hungry, so I would have had a piece of the cake with a cup of some tea. Well, now that I think of it, maybe I would pass on this cake.
For Jews, the world was born on the 6th day of creation and, soon after, G-d rested. Let’s be honest, this is true for some Jews because, as Jews, we are genetically coded to be contrarians. If you say tomayto, I’ll say tomahto. And not only that, I will tell you that the Torah supports me. It is not a Jewish holiday if there are not at least ten opposing views and interpretations.
But I digress.
During these days of awe and atonement, we celebrate the cycles of life and the blessings of the prior year. And we pray for our lives. Just in case that isn’t too big of a task, we also try to re-set our internal compasses for the coming year: do justly, love mercy and walk humbly. It is hard to do in our crazy, fast-paced, instant-gratification world.
No year is ever the same as before or after. I am a different person every year, shaped by my growth and my failings. And the future always seems to hold different promises and lurking tests. And life comes at you. You just have to be ready for it. I believe that every event offers a prism of paths a person can take. The question is which is the best action to take, or is it inaction? And the event isn’t always about you, but your action or inaction helps define and redefine your character.
And there are temptations and tests. We all give in to temptation (did I need that extra glass of wine?) and we don’t always step up to the tests of our humanity and our sense of fundamental fairness (the person begging in the street). Sometimes we take the easy way out, sometimes we indulge in pleasures to excess and sometimes we forget to notice that a friend needs help.
So, this year, as I have done for some many years before, I am looking to the New Year as a chance to discard the ruts of last year, to navigate the world as best I can with limited indulgences and maximum humanity. And forgiveness for my frailties and those of others.
Yes, I have dumbed-down my expectations of me for these holy days. Mostly, I just hope that I have the fortitude in the coming year to navigate the crises that lurk and protect POB and SOS and their happiness and security. And for the happiness, health and life for those whom I love — my dear family of origin, my friends and my friends-who-are-family. If they are ok, then I can fend for myself.
May it be a sweet, healthy and prosperous new year for all.