Sunday, December 27, 2015

So what’s one more New Year among friends?

Appropriately enough, I guess, I am learning Masechet Rosh HaShanah in my daily Gemara learning. In the Jewish calendar there are four recognized new years, occurring in the months of Nisan, Elul, Tishrei and Shevat. In the discussions that appear in the Talmud it is suggested that there may be as much as six new years – for a variety of reasons including the official calendar of kings, for the fruits of the trees, for accounting of all that we have and for judgment for all that we are. Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur – clearly the most well known of the new years in the Jewish calendar is what is focused on in this aptly named section of Talmud, called after Rosh HaShanah, the beginning of the year of human accounting.

The Rabbis discuss how often we are called to account for what we do by God, our Creator. Various options are again presented (you know the joke, two Rabbis, three opinions… well, we see its origins in the Gemara!) with no less than the notion presented that actually we are called to account for our actions every minute of every day. It is known that Jewish communities come to God asking for forgiveness for our missteps on Yom Kippur, the Day of Judgment; but we would do well to remember that actually in the daily prayer that we say three times each day – the Amidah, we constantly ask God to forgive us for such slights we have committed in the various daily dealings of our lives. I actually feel so comforted that God is always listening to and attentive to our deeds and I guess that is a huge part of what it means to be a person of faith.

A Rabbi in our community shared that automatically it occurred to this community leader to wish people who were observing Christmas a Happy Erev Christmas! I love it… Jewish mindset and accepting and cherishing of others wrapped up in one heartfelt greeting. Another Rabbi indicated in the shul calendar that we have two Federal Holidays this week. How true! We as Americans are embraced by (or caught, depending on one’s predisposition) the joyful time of another faith community and culture that is so much a part of the country that accepts us all.

So what is my ritual at this time? I start practicing writing 2016 – I actually am so good at it this year, I mistakenly used 2016 on documents I have signed when it is still 2015. Oops! But more importantly, what will be my greeting to everyone I meet this week? Of course, it will be Happy New Year! Why not? I know that not all in our faith community of observant Jews agree with this. But I think it is indeed something to celebrate – that we live in this world as free people of faith, enjoying more and more inclusiveness on so many levels and the other fruits of democracy and the free-thinking world. Of course, we must also fully acknowledge and be accountable for the fact that this is clearly not the case for all citizens of the world. So here comes our prayers – to make us more caring, more embracing, and closer to the ideal people of faith we are all enjoined to be, whatever Higher Being we hold to be ours.

So what would the Rabbis in the pages of my Gemara learning think about that? One of the distinctions that is often made is between kings and the kingship of the Jewish nation and those of the nations of the world. So, let’s consider that for a moment. As our calendar turns from 2015 to 2016 this coming Thursday night, let us pray for ALL nations and people of faith of our world that this year will bring more understanding, less pain and conflict and more acceptance of the need for all of us to live together. Is that worthy of yet another New Year? I believe it is… so from my own mindset of Jewish values and thinking, I wish you all a heartfelt HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!

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