As a rabbi it should come to no one’s surprise that I love ritual. I think that ritual is the beating heart that grounds us in a chaotic life. Jewish life is filled with ritual. We eat certain foods, we say certain prayers, and we take certain actions according to the time of year. January 1st isn’t so different. Okay, so there’s no ram’s horn, no avinu malkeinu, and no Torah service, but many of us still go through certain rituals around this time of year. Every year around this time I go through the ritual of reflecting on my year: what I learned about myself, what I learned about the world, what was exciting, or what was challenging. I also think about what I hope for in the year ahead—my new year’s resolutions.
Judaism takes a very serious attitude toward resolutions. Oaths and vows are not something that our tradition takes lightly. Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are filled with prayers asking for God to forgive us for the vows and oaths we did not keep. When we make our new years resolutions, we are making these vows with God and ourselves. Whether we want to exercise more, use our cell phones less, or spend more time with family and friends, we should hold ourselves more accountable for our goals.
On January 1st we exchange our ram’s horn for a countdown and ball-drop, but let’s bring in the new year with a blessing. Here is my blessing for us in 2019:
At every new beginning, we offer a prayer of gratitude and thanksgiving to God for enabling us to reach this occasion. May 2019 be filled with more joys than oys, more time for the people who fill our hearts with warmth, and more moments filled with awe for the gift of life we enjoy each day.
Shabbat Shalom and Happy New Year!