So many of us are getting ready to kiss – while masked of course – 2020 goodbye and welcome in 2021 that is sure to bring new hope and optimism and goodness that was so sorely lacking in 2020.
2020 brought pain and devastation to so many. So many untimely deaths, job losses, destruction to our economy impacting everyone on some level. Somehow, though, we are of this mindset that when the clock strikes midnight on New years eve, somehow that will just all turn around and the dawn of January 1st will usher in a new era of healing happiness and health!
Why? Should the movement on a clock suddenly change everything? The pandemic should still theoretically need to run its course (of course vaccinations are on their way, but that was true in December already), the gears of a crushed economy need to grind back into action, jobs and incomes need to be repaired and repatriated. Those broken by loss and illness sill need to contend with that pain and heal.
So why will 2021 be the savior that will make everything better? It is an inanimate movement of time, not a spiritual or physical stimulus that should be able to independently change anything?
There is a concept that I’ve taught tens of Bar mitzvah boys over the years as I’ve prepared them for the Rosh Chodesh Torah Readings. In ancient times, the new Jewish month would only begin when two witnesses testified that they saw the birth of a new moon. If the two witnesses were found to be correct, then Rosh Chodesh – the new month – began.
Why would G-d command such a strange system to establish the new month? Why couldn’t he just say, “look at the calendar?” In fact, later Hillel the great sage did in fact compile a calendar and we do use a calendar to determine the next month. However, that calendar was only instituted since the original witness system was in jeopardy of being able to continue. The original system was a biblical mandated system so there must be a really good reason for this strange way of knowing when the new month began?
He did this in order to teach us a lesson.
First of all, it is to teach us that things in life don’t JUST HAPPEN. Just like the new Jewish month doesn’t just happen, because the clock struck midnight of the 1st day of the month, but rather people had to witness and testify to the new month’s arrival, so too in our lives.
The sun and the moon exist because G-d made them exist. My house, clothes and food happen because my parents bought them, prepared them, and gave them to me. My dirty socks and clothing that I threw in the corner of my bedroom, didn’t just launder itself and fold itself and put itself back in my drawers. There is a loving mother or father behind it, even if not seen that made that miracle happen.
This lesson is taught by the Rosh Chodesh System.
When one is younger they might think things just happened on their own. As they get older, they might think that any goodness that happens is their own brilliance and has nothing to do with Divine blessing. The Rosh Chodesh system teaches us that even a new month, which we’d think would just happen on its own without any input from me, simply with the passage of time still cannot begin as a new month unless witnesses take the time to testify that they’ve seen and thus all will acknowledge that it happened.
Things don’t just happen. We need to make them happen. On a most practical level that means doing what we can in our power to be involved in making our destiny a better one. If it means creating a vaccine or perhaps securing a vaccine for myself and family or simply practicing safe behaviors and masks to keep myself and others safe.
On a more spiritual level it means recognizing that the sun doesn’t just rise in the west and set in the east and take that for granted. I need to recognize that each time this happens it is an active miracle that Gd chose to do for me personally again today.
We have a tendency to take ongoing miracles for granted and assume that they are now the new normal AKA nature. However, even nature, in Hebrew “Hateva” has the same numeric value as the Divine name for Gd, “Elokim.” Which is a name of Gd that hints at concealed/restricted revelation, but no less Gdly than an open miracle.
In fact, we say it in our daily prayer המחדש בטובו בכל יום תמיד מעשה בראשית “who creates in His goodness, daily the acts of creation” i.e. that each day He re-creates from scratch what we just assume will be created again.
So too, in my opinion, can be said for this move to 2021. Sure the vaccine rollout is in process, and stimulus package/s are on their way. However, they will not on their own make 2021 better.
To make 2021 better we have to actually do something to make that happen. Like the affixing of a new month doesn’t just happen, witnesses must seek out the birth a new moon, and have their sighting affirmed by the Bet Din, so too, the simple moving passage of time, moving of the dial of the clock beyond midnight of December 31st, and the dropping of the ball will not make it a better year.
We need to work on the three A’s.
Attitude, action and acknowledgement.
Having the right attitude towards what has happened in the year gone by and realize that the Puppeteer in Chief was moving the marionettes and nothing that happens is random.
Taking action by working towards a better year and improving our connection to the one above, through increased prayer, Torah Study and Mitzva observance.
Acknowledging that we are but pawns in the Divine master plan and notwithstanding the hardship and suffering of 2020, recognizing that there were many blessings and silver linings amongst the challenges.
Then in fact 2021 will usher in a year of health healing and happiness.
Gives a whole new meaning to ringing in the New Year!
2021 won’t be better, we will make 2021 better.