Many Jews try not to make a big deal out of the New Year — at least, the one that starts on January 1. After all, we’ve already celebrated the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, a few months ago.
But in actuality, traditional Judaism loves the concept of New Years. In Talmudic Judaism, there are four New Years: one for judgment (that’s Rosh Hashanah), one for trees (called Tu B’Shvat), and two others — one for giving charity and a New Year for kings. But the Baal Shem Tov, the 18th-century founder of Hasidism, teaches that there are even more New Years — as many, in fact, as there are seconds in our life.
Rosh Hashanah is the anniversary of the creation of the world. But according to the Baal Shem Tov, the world is created anew at every moment — and, correspondingly, we have the power to become an entirely new person at any moment. Forgot to take out the trash this morning? Did you lie to your parents, or ignore a homeless person? There’s always time for a second chance. In fact, our whole lives are composed of them.
Happy new year! May 2011 be better than 2010 and not as good as 2012
(as my Uncle George likes to say, albeit usually in roman numerals)
And may this year be one of growth if you want to grow,
peace if you want to be peaceful,
comfort if you want to be comfortable,
challenge if you want to be challenged,
and even if you’re on the fast track to success,
may you remember to stop and smell the roses.