Tag: New Years

What Does a Jew Pray on the Secular New Year?

A Jew, living in America, with eyes on two calendars – one Jewish, one secular – marks nonetheless the turning of the secular New Year.  With hope for continued freedom and the blessing of a better tomorrow, we might take a moment during our day to say:

Eternal God, we give thanks
For the gifts of life, wonder beyond words;
For the awareness of soul, our light within;
For the world around us, so filled with beauty;
For the richness of the earth, which day by day sustains us;
For all these and more we offer thanks.
Baruch Atah Adonai, hatov shimcha ul’cha na-eh l’hodot.
Blessed are You, Eternal, Your Name is goodness,
and to You we offer thanksgiving.
(by Rabbi Judith Z. Abrams)

Or we might recite:

For the good in us, which calls us to a better life,
  We give thanks.
For the strength to improve the world with our hearts and our hand,
  We offer praise.
For the desire in us which leads us to work for peace,
  We are grateful.
For life and nature, harmony and beauty, for the hope of tomorrow,
  All praise to the Source of Being.
(Adapted from Chaim Stern and Abraham Rothberg, Gates of Prayer, 1975 p. 271)

Happy New Year All!

2010 – New Year, Time to Count Blessings

As 2010 is underway, we have a 5 hour drive remaining from Palo Alto to home, so we tale this time to enumerate the blessings and joys of 2009:We Still have 4 grandparents who have very close relationships with our kids.
We still in love and enjoy being married to each other.
We still have 3 wonderful hildren who are growing and maturing in positive ways and who still love being Jewish.
We all have our health.
We both work in vibrant Jewish communities that we are proud to be part of and to be representing.
We have long friendships spanning two to four decades with people whom we don’t always see regularly but when we do they energize and sustain us.
We have made new close friendships in the past decade.
Our home is comfortable, dry and filled with our kids and their friends who like to sleep over.
We had an opportunity to travel extensively through the country – 20 states in 31 days in one minivan. We were hosted by good friends. We saw beautiful and intersting parts of our nation which inspired us.
Our baby became a Bar Mitzvah, making us very proud and bringing so many family and friends together
Our eldest applied to colleges and while we await answers, she made us proud by her perseverence and improved essay writing.
Our middle one became president of the temple youth group, evidenced significant leadership and growth.We look forward to the start of a secular new year and a new decade.
May this one bring more truth, promise and honesty than the last.What are the blessings you count from 2009?

Don't Waste Time Making Resolutions, Instead Count Blessings

Many people will spend the next week writing down “New Years Resolutions,” declarations of what they plan to do, who they plan to be, in the coming year. Within weeks, diets will begin and new gym memberships purchased. Within less than two months, both and more will be abandoned. Our resolutions will again be thrown upon the pile of discarded and broken promises made in previous years. So caught up in the ritual of deciding what we could be doing, we fail to do it.

Why? As John Tierney writes Carpe Diem? Maybe Tomorrow in the New York Times:

“People can become overly focused on an ideal,” Dr. Shu said. “Even if they know it’s unlikely, they get so focused on the perfect scenario that they block everything else. Or they anticipate that they’ll kick themselves later if they take second-best option and then see the best one is still available. But they don’t realize that regret can go the other way. They’ll end up with something worse and regret not taking the second-best one.”But even if you know about all this research, how can you apply these lessons? How can you avoid the temptation to postpone pleasure? … One immediate strategy, Dr. Shu said, is to cash in quickly any gift certificate you received this holiday season. “The biggest danger is that it will be forgotten and expire,” she said. “One of the best presents you can give back to the giver is to use it quickly and then tell them how much you enjoyed it. The regret from not using it will be bigger than the regret from using it on a nonperfect occasion, for you and especially for the person who gave it.”

Another tactic is to give yourself deadlines. Cash in the miles by summer, even if you can’t get a round-the-world trip out of them. Instead of waiting for a special occasion to indulge yourself, create one. Dr. Shu approvingly cites the pioneering therapeutic work of Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, who for the past decade used their Wall Street Journal column on wine to proclaim the last Saturday of February to be “Open That Bottle Night.”

Our rabbinic teachers of old offered a different tactic to living life. They invited us to count the blessings we have today and to enjoy the lives we are living. Recognizing that so often we pine after the future instead of finding joy in the present, they taught us to count 100 blessings a day.

  • Take a look at your family. What joys do they bring you? Count them up.
  • Give a smile to your husband/wife/partner/significant other. How, over the years, has s/he brought meaning to your existence?
  • Think about your job. In an economy in recession, how has it helped sustain you when others are struggling so?
  • Consider your friends. In what ways have they provided strength, love, caring, companionship or…?
  • What about community? How has your synagogue, club, or organization provided you with a sense of belonging and meaning?
  • What else?

Then take some time to tell them each why they are blessings for you. Don’t shortchange the moment. Be clear, be long-winded, be openly honest. (Nothing feels better than to hear how much we mean to someone.)

Then figure out how to live in the present, enjoying the moment, experiencing the holy (meaning: “specialness, uniqueness, worthiness”) in the midst of the mundane.

As Tierney suggests at the end of his article, regarding that special bottle of wine you are saving…

But you don’t even have to wait until Feb. 27. Remember the advice offered in the movie “Sideways” to Miles, who has been holding on to a ’61 Cheval Blanc so long that it is in danger of going bad. When Miles says he is waiting for a special occasion, his friend Maya puts matters in perspective:“The day you open a ’61 Cheval Blanc, that’s the special occasion.”

May New Year 2010 be filled with promise because we took enough time to count the blessings that we took with us from Present Year 2009!