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Jewish Drash on a Secular New Year

01/01/2021 09:39:44 AM


Rabbi Jamie Arnold

January 1, 2021, may not be a Jewish New Year, but turning to annual markers in time as measures of change is certainly a Jewish practice.  There are, after all, at least four New Years in the Jewish calendar: one for the lunar cycle (1 Nisan in the Spring), one for domesticated animals (early summer), on for humankind (Rosh Hashanah, the fall), and one for the trees (Tu b’Shevat), which this year begins at sundown on Wednesday, January 26. 

Indeed, the first commandment issued to the children of Israel came before they have even left Egypt, on the eve of the last of the plagues, months before they would stand at Mt. Sinai and receive the Torah.  Pharaoh’s reign was not yet over.  With the sea not yet crossed, the cries of those suffering at the hands of the plagues still ringing in our ears, we are instructed to create a new annual calendar.  With it, we would collectively anticipate and track changes over time, as we journey together through valleys and their shadows, across deserts and their unknows, and over mountains and their promising vistas.     

 We engage new years to measure changes in the moon-and-sun, in the animals in our flock, in ourselves and our community (on Rosh Hashanah), and in trees of the orchard (on Tu Bishvat).  So, why not use 2021 to measure the changes in our relations to our neighbors and our nations. 

Let us as ourselves these four questions:

How has my engagement in state and federal policies changed in the past year?  Where is it headed?

How has my perspective on international relations and global issues changed this year?  And where is it headed? 

How has my relationship to the State of Israel, to Israeli and Palestinian inhabitants of the land, to US-Israel relations evolved this year.  Where is it headed? 

How have my relationships and alliances with Christians, Muslims, and other spiritual communities and neighbors changed this past year?  Where are they headed?

Mon, April 12 2021 30 Nisan 5781