December 2, 2023 /
As you are reading this, we will be or have just welcomed in a new secular year. 2018 is behind us, and now we look out at 2019 with the promise and hope in a grander tomorrow. Besides just wishing for a better year, what can we do to help make it happen?
I believe that we can help foster a better year by looking at the words of our sages. Here are three areas that I think we should focus ourselves on to make 2019 a more meaningful and inspiring year.
The first is with teshuvah. I know it is not Rosh Hashanah, so why is teshuvah/repentance on my list? Following the teachings of Rabbi Eliezer, we should live our lives believing that the next day will be our last. Why? Because if we do this, then thinking about how we behave, thinking about how we treat others, thinking about our lives in meaningful ways will always be first in our thoughts. That’s what teshuvah is. When we do teshuvah we need to be vulnerable with ourselves and we need to be willing to compare the vision of who we wish to be with who we are. If the images don’t match, we must work on our behavior until they do. Then once we do we will find ourselves looking back in appreciation for becoming the individuals we wish to become.
The second is with tikkun olam. In the words of Rabbi Hillel “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” (Pirkei Avot 1:4) We do not live in this world by ourselves. The only way we can find meaning in our lives is when we share it with others. Life is not perfect, and neither is society. When we get to know others and become part of their world, we become intrinsically linked with theirs. Yes, we need to be concerned with our wellbeing, but when we only care about ourselves, what type of human beings are we? Is this the image of someone that we are proud of? Hillel’s quote compels us to think of others NOW, and to engage with them to help them on their journeys. How can you leave your tribe to engage with others in new ways in the coming year?
The third is with powerful Jewish living. Synagogue life should compel us to live meaningful lives through substantive engagement in our faith and heritage. Join with us as a community as we wrestle with our world and our past, and we will build a meaningful future together. As Jews, we are dependent upon our community for meaning. Find new programs of substance here at your Jewish home to help you and your family plot a course forward in the coming year.
Allow yourself to delve into these areas. Give yourself permission to be open to them and let us engage together as a community to make sure that everyone will have a better 2019. “Shanah Tovah!”
Philip N. Bazeley