January 2019


Happy New Year!  While as Jews we celebrated the turning of the year back in September, January 1st is a helpful day to remember Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and our hopes for a fresh start.  As we sat in the synagogue or around the table with family and friends we made promises to ourselves to re-examine old habits and reconsider patterns of behavior and patterns of mind.  If we are sometimes short-tempered, we thought about how we might become more patient.  If we have been ignoring our bodies, we thought about small steps we might take to live more healthfully.  The secular New Year gives us a chance to see how we are doing, remind ourselves of our hopes and promises, and recommit to becoming our sweeter and best selves.

In thinking about the holidays, Jewish and secular, I am reminded of my favorite list of Jewish holidays, the one written by a Jewish philosopher and community leader who lived in Alexandria Egypt 2,000 years ago.  Philo of Alexandria began his list not with Passover, not with Rosh Hashanah and not even with the Sabbath.  He wrote that Jews celebrate every day, and treat each day as a new creation, an opportunity to reflect, praise and begin life anew.

If you look into our siddur you find prayers in the morning and evening service that reflect that idea.  In the morning we offer thanks for the return of our soul as we wake up.  Each day our body and soul come together and remind us that we are connected to one another and to God through our souls.  As in-souled beings we are capable of great things and each day is a renewed opportunity to treat ourselves and those around us as beloved individuals made in the image of God.

At nightfall, during the evening service, we think about creation, not the one-time creation of the world, not the Big Bang, but the daily act of creation and re-creation when the sun sets and the moon rises.  Every day is a time to reflect with awe on the majesty of the world and the regular cycles of nature as a pointer to the grandeur of God and to our role as preservers of the earth.  Judaism keeps us focused on the daily wonders around us.

Whatever day you are reading this message, whether on the New Year or just an ordinary weekday, it is a chance to pause and think deeply about yourself, those around you, and the world.  How can today be a day for a new start in my relationship to myself and my body?  How can today be a day to begin treating others with more care?  What are my responsibilities to the world so that the cycles of life will continue into the future?  Join me in celebrating each day.

Rabbi Leonard Gordon