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New year brings new light, new life

  • Parshas Ki Tetze - Rabbi Yossi Goldman
Hey, does anybody here still make new year’s resolutions? Or are we all over that phase? Maybe you do still make resolutions, and yours goes something like mine?
by RABBI YOSSY GOLDMAN | Sep 06, 2018

“My new year’s resolution this year is to keep the resolutions I made last year!”

One guy said his goes like this:

“My new year’s resolution is to have a fat bank account and a skinny body. Last year, I got mixed up.”

Most people I know have long stopped making new year’s resolutions because they know it doesn’t work. They just go “in one year, and out the other”!

We are living in a confusing and, for many, a depressing time. This is the case in much of the world, and in South Africa in particular. So, let me share an idea about Rosh Hashanah which I believe can help us confront the confusion and find some clarity.

In Jewish thought, the new year is not only when we need to buy a new calendar, or a seat in shul. The new year means a new light. According to the mystics, a divine light comes into the world for the very first time since creation. Implicit in this new light is the potential for new opportunities on every level.

A new year with its infinite new light means there really can be a new me, and a new you. Yes, believe it or not, we really can reinvent ourselves. How? Good question. But that’s not what Rosh Hashanah is about. It’s not about the details. It’s about the potential, the hope, the commitment, and the resolve to do better than we did last year. How? We will have to figure that out. But first things first.

I recall back in my yeshiva days in Montreal, when the Mashpia, my spiritual mentor, made a deep impression on me with an idea culled from one of the philosophical treatises we were studying at the time.

In the second section of Tanya, the author Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, explains the concept of continuous creation. Very briefly, it goes something like this. Since G-d created the universe from nothing way back when, it obviously required a powerful flash of divine energy to bring the world into being from nothingness. It follows that that very same creative force can never be removed from the universe or it will simply cease to exist immediately. Without the creative force of G-d which brought the world into existence originally, it would simply revert to its original state of … nothingness.

This is the deeper meaning of the expression used in the morning service, Hamechadesh b’tuvoi b’chol yom tomid maaseh bresishis… describing the wonders of the creator, how G-d “renews daily, perpetually, the work of creation”.

Not only does the creator renew our world every morning on a daily basis, he does it perpetually, continuously, hence the concept of continuous creation. G-d didn’t create the world 5 779 years ago, and now he’s on holiday in Mauritius. He hasn’t retired or even semi-retired. And he doesn’t suffer from mid-life crises either. His involvement with his world, our world, is continuous and constant. If the creator would forget about us, even for a second, we would cease to exist. Taking his eye off the ball is equivalent to pulling the plug on the universe. It would simply go back to its default position, which was non-existence.

Isn’t it encouraging to know that G-d has us in mind, that we haven’t been forgotten or left to our own devices? This is the real meaning of the term “divine providence”; that the world isn’t working randomly, or even on autopilot. There is a higher plan, or, in the words of Tevye, a vast eternal plan. He is involved and looking after us, then and now.

And if he renews the work of creation every day, every hour, every minute, second and nanosecond, then effectively, this means that every day it’s a brand-new world. And not only every day, but every moment. Every second, the world has just been recreated. And if it’s a new world, then this presents us with a brilliant new opportunity. Hey, I can start again! It’s a new world now, and I needn’t be burdened by the past. That was an old world. I can make a new beginning today, this hour, this second.

A new world brings with it the opportunity of a new you, personally, psychologically, physically, and spiritually. We can reinvent ourselves at any given moment. We can change our attitude at any given moment. And we can change the way we look at our country any time we want to. In a second, things can improve. South Africa has been written off regularly for the past 50 years, and we’re still here. If we would only be a little more objective, we would see the many positive and encouraging changes too, and not only focus on the disasters.

I know about all the problems. I’m not naive. But this country and this Jewish community are too beautiful and too precious to let slip away into oblivion because of negativity and pessimism. Let us renew ourselves, our families, our community, and our country.

There’s a new light coming this Rosh Hashanah. And with it comes a new world with new life, new beginnings, and new blessings for all of us, please G-d.

There is an old prayer said at this time of year. “May this year and all its curses come to an end. May the new year with all of its blessings now begin.”

Amen.

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