New Years

by Rabbi Ilene Bogosian, January 22, 2015

According to the secular calendar we have all just embarked on a new lap of our planet’s jog around the sun. What puzzles me is the sanctity attached to this particular point on our planet’s journey. Why is it that the starting line for a new earth circuit falls on January 1, ten days after the winter solstice? This seems arbitrary. Why not begin on the day of least light, or on any other day for that matter? I know that these calendar traditions have roots in the ancient world. But – how did someone decide all those centuries ago that on December 31st something ends and on January 1st something new begins? I’m sure there were reasons, but for this temperate zone dweller, frozen ground and dormant plants do not feel conducive to new beginnings. My own new years are linked to climate changes. One comes when the weather finally cools off at the end of summer. The other arrives with the first warm days of spring. Perhaps my inclination to multiple new years comes from our tradition. We have better resources than the western world when it comes to new years. There are four of them on the Jewish calendar. The most familiar of them, Rosh Hashanah, falls in the autumn. The new year of the trees arrives during our winter and the annual cycle for kings turns over in the spring. The new year for tithing falls in late summer. I like this abundance of new beginnings.

Maybe that has something to do with my inclination to serve congregations in transition. Every year I have the honor of supporting a community in the process of preparing for the celebration of a new beginning, a “new year” in the life of a congregation. Of course, there is no set date for the commencement of that “year.” At this time – half way through our time together – people begin to ask about the equivalent of what our children always want to know. Are we there yet?

I don’t have the answer to that question. You are the ones who know best how far we have come in our work – and play – together. We are in the process of rebuilding our Jewish home at Solel. It is up to us to strengthen the spiritual walls that shelter us while we are raising a new roof!

I hope that during the next few weeks you will take the time to let me know how you think things are going at Solel. We are partners in the work and celebration of launching Solel’s future. Keep in mind that the selection of a new permanent rabbi will certainly be a time for celebration, but no matter how wonderful that rabbi is – he or she will not be able to create Solel’s future alone. Every one of you will play a part in that new beginning.

I wish all of you a happy secular new year and look forward to hearing from you about how we are doing at the halfway mark.


Rabbi Ilene Bogosian

Filed under: Rabbi's Message

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