Happy New Year Again and Again

Part of a continuing series on resilience

Did you ever wonder why there are so many New Years Days? Who decided that January 1 is the first day of the year?  Isn’t the Chinese New Year around this time? While most Jews identify Rosh Hashanah as the Jewish New Year, the Talmud says that Jews have four different new year days to celebrate. In addition to Rosh Hashanah there is one for animals, one for trees, and one more for our redemption from Egypt. What is the reason that we create multiple New Year days?

New Year’s celebrations are more than a song of remembrance and a stem of champagne. There is a combined psychological and spiritual boost to celebrating a New Year. We get to leave the past behind, put it in a box and place it on a shelf. With the New Year we open a door to possibilities.

One of the very first declarations made in the Torah was setting a New Year's day. The commandment comes just before the tenth and final plague descends upon Egypt.  Imagine, you’ve been enslaved for a long time. A promise of redemption is made. Before your troubles are over, the occasion is declared a New Year holiday, this one coming in the Hebrew month of Nisan which always poetically falls in the springtime. 

הַחֹ֧דֶשׁ הַזֶּ֛ה לָכֶ֖ם רֹ֣אשׁ חֳדָשִׁ֑ים רִאשׁ֥וֹן הוּא֙ לָכֶ֔ם לְחָדְשֵׁ֖י הַשָּׁנָֽה׃

“This month shall mark for you the beginning of the months; it shall be the first of the months of the year for you.” Exodus 12:2.

Feels a little chutzpadik, no?  We aren’t free yet and already we’ve been commanded to mark the calendars to celebrate our escape.  Which actually demonstrates the psycho-spiritual genius of the story: hope. Hope is the enzyme that catalyzes the transformation from enslavement to freedom. Hope is the fuel that propels the engine. 

Has there been some episode or condition in your life that has you stuck and unfulfilled? Can you simply try to envision celebrating its end with a New Year celebration? Stepping into the realm of possibility, being hopeful, is necessary to make the transition. 

To be resilient in this world, even from the depths of despair, we need to find hope. And hope can be enlivened with the plans to celebrate our transformation as if the beginning of a new year on our life’s journey. Start planning a New Year’s celebration of your own making. It is an entirely Jewish way to find resilience in your life.

Rabbi Evan J. Krame

PS - While Tu B'shevat, the New Year for Trees, is on January 31 - and the Jewish Studio celebration will be on Friday Night February 2, with a four cups of wine tasting.