In contrast to the Jewish New Year we celebrate in the fall, the secular New Year can seem a bit anti-climactic. We might celebrate it by going out to a party or fancy dinner, and then spend the first day of the New Year sleeping and lazing around. And yet, as we ‘turn the page’ to a new calendar year, we are also habituated to the practice of New Year’s resolutions. Resolve to eat better, lose weight, and exercise more are among the common determinations people make at this time.
I’d like to suggest a way of thinking about this time of year through a Jewish lens. Hitchadshut is the Hebrew word for renewal and is viewed in our tradition as a daily and miraculous encounter. In the shacharit/morning prayers we thank God for the miracle of creation and daily renewal with the phrase: "mechadesh b'tuvo bechol yom tamid maaseh bereisheet"; "The Holy One, with Divine goodness, every day continuously renews the work of creation". Each day brings new opportunity for goodness, happiness and growth.
We are individually considered a beriah chadashah/ a new creation each day. The rabbis emphasize that a vital component of hitchadshut is that of regeneration: both physically and spiritually. Our bodies are reborn as we awaken, and we are daily blessed with new opportunities to live and enjoy the renewed present.
The practice of hitchadshut also reminds us that we have the capacity to triumph over adversity. We all encounter turbulence in our lives whether it is with our relationships, jobs, finances or spirits. Enacting this quality of hitchadshut can help to diminish the power of stress and disappointment in our lives. We are capable of making changes, and with optimism and hope make conscious efforts to ‘put the past behind ’and make a fresh start.
2014 will bring change and renewal if and only if we act. Small changes are the easiest and often most fruitful. Take some time to think about what you want to do differently in the coming year. Do some planning. Practice new behaviors and try out a new routine. And make a point to enlist roommates, friends and family so they can be sources of support and strength.
Whether you seek to make small or grand changes, may you do so with patience kindness and the knowledge that hitchadshut, renewal of body and soul are within your grasp.
A happy and healthy New Year to all!