During the early years of our marriage we lived in Brooklyn while my husband went to graduate school at Yeshiva University, a private Jewish school in New York City. We lived in an orthodox Jewish neighborhood where some of the older people still had concentration camp tattoos on their forearms. The first September we were there, I was startled to hear people wishing each other "Happy Holidays," and "Happy New Year." In September?
I learned about the High Holy Days: Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). During this holiday time, Psalm 27 is added to morning and evening prayers. I especially appreciate these verses from the Psalm:
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?...
One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple…
Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me…
Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.
The month preceding Rosh Hashanah is designated as a month of introspection and repentance. It is customary to increase the giving of charity and to ask forgiveness from anyone you have wronged.
This always seemed a better approach to the New Year than making foolish and meaningless "resolutions." In January the frenetic pace of the holidays is past and might be a good time for quiet contemplation.
- Let's make it a time of reflection on our lives and consider where we have need of repentance.
- Let's increase our charity towards others, with both time and resources.
- Let's try to increase our awareness of and sensitivity to their needs and suffering.
- And let's ask forgiveness of those we have harmed in any way and at the same time, forgive those who have wronged us.
Perhaps this would continue the sweet spirit of Christmas as we re-consecrate our lives to God. Then we might be able to say with the psalmist, "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life…" And we can face the upcoming year with greater courage and peace, no matter what it brings.