Another year, another exciting time for my family!
My nephew was married a year ago in Jerusalem, and last January I wrote about this wonderful family event that I will remember and cherish always. Well, now my niece is newly engaged, I’m out-of-town celebrating said engagement, and my family has another wedding on the calendar!
I don’t know if we can keep up this pace, but the secular new years have lately brought with them many joys for my family to celebrate!
The secular new year also brings us inspiration to make resolutions – promises to ourselves that we’ll do better in the new year. Thinking about this motivated me to examine the difference between the the changes we seek to make at the Jewish new year, and the changes we seek to make at the secular new year.
Typical Jewish new year ‘resolutions’ focus on improving who we are as human beings and how we treat others. How can we be kinder? How can we be more generous? How can we be more inclusive, more welcoming, more patient? How can we be more of a mensch (a person of integrity and honor)? How can we do our part to make the world a better place for all?
Typical secular new year resolutions, on the other hand, tend to focus on taking better care of ourselves – lose weight, eat better, exercise more, create a budget, read more books, etc. Many of these resolutions would feel inappropriate and even selfish if we made them at the High Holidays; however, both types of resolutions have value if kept. When we take better care of ourselves, we become stronger and healthier, and are then in a better position to help others. [This falls under the category of: ‘Put your own oxygen mask on first’. Sage advice.]
I like to take some time when the calendar has just turned to a new secular year to recall the private conversations I had with myself during the High Holidays. In our busy lives, the details quickly become a blur, and the secular new year is a great time to review and recharge our commitment to working on behalf of the common good, in addition to recommitting to self-care.
Social justice is an important component of liberal Judaism. But thinking about how to make the world a better place can feel overwhelming, especially during this political era where hatred is being actively promoted by many of those in leadership positions.
It may help to remember that big projects get done the same way as small projects – one step at at time. Resolve to do just one more thing; make just one more effort. There is so much that needs doing, and so much from which to choose. If you’re in the Boston area, perhaps start here: https://www.bostonvolunteer.org/
So indulge your secular new year ‘party horn resolutions’ – join a gym, begin meditation, lose weight, and become physically and mentally stronger.
But also, continue work on the ‘shofar resolutions’ you quietly made to yourself last fall. If each of us does just one more thing, makes just one more effort toward to common good, imagine the difference we will collectively make….
Happy New Year to all.
Wishing my niece and her beloved, along with all newly engaged couples, a hearty mazel tov! (congratulations)
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