Honorable Mensch-ion

New Year’s Freedom

I would always challenge myself as a child to stay up until midnight and watch the ball drop in Times Square each New Year’s Eve. With the advent of DVR and a 9pm ball drop on the west coast, the challenge does not feel as urgent these days.

How many New Years do we have? We know the secular calendar only gives us one chance on January 1st as the numerical year changes.

Yet, we must be grateful for our tradition, which gives us four new year opportunities. The Mishna tells us there is Rosh Hashana in Tishrei, Passover in Nissan, a new year for the kings, and a new year for animal tithes. It seems only appropriate that we read parshat Vaera this weekend as we move from 2021 to 2022. This week, the Torah tells us that God will free the Israelites from labor, deliver them from bondage, and redeem them with an outstretched arm. The Talmud comments that our ancestors’ slavery ended on Rosh Hashana. A new year is not simply a date change but a transformation of how we wish to live our lives.

As seen in the history of our people, there has always been a “next” moment of liberation, of freedom, and of renewal. We are blessed with the gift of Shabbat that breaks this model down even further, giving us a look back into what was and a peak forward into what can be. Our secular calendar counts down. 4…3…2…1….. Our Jewish calendar counts up. Maalin bkodesh vlo moridin–we must go up in holiness and not down.

This year may not have been the year we have expected. We have had ups and we have had downs. Our creativity allowed us to continue to celebrate and mourn. The certainty we have heading into the new year is in fact the uncertainty that we all have acutely recognized.

This year, New Year’s Eve comes in as the Shabbat will have arrived. While the ball will drop, also know the Shabbat candles will be lit, and we will bless the sanctified day, acknowledging the promise in the week and year ahead.

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