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Happy 2019

12/28/2018 04:40:23 PM


It’s hard for me to wish people a Happy New Year.  It’s not because I don’t want people to be happy.  It’s because it doesn't feel like the right season for a new year. Nights are long, and nature is dormant. There is very little “new” reflected in the natural world. 

Spring is a better time for a new year. Green shoots push through the muddy ground, deer give birth to their fawns, and the peepers in the vernal ponds begin their enthusiastic chorus.  It’s no accident that the first month on the Hebrew calendar is Nisan (called “Aviv” in the Torah).  Nisan is the month in which we celebrate Passover, the birth of our people's freedom.  It fits. 

Even in the secular calendar, the new year used to begin in March.  The Roman calendar had ten months. September through December, currently the ninth through twelfth months, were originally positioned as the seventh through tenth months.  You can see this reflected in their names:  Septem is Latin for seven, octo is eight, novem is nine, and decem is ten. 

Julius Caesar decided to reform the calendar in 46 BCE. The Julian calendar added two months to more closely align it with the solar year.  January 1 became the first day of the New Year.  (January is named for the Roman god Janus, who is said to oversee beginnings, transitions and time.)

Our Jewish community celebrates the New Year in the fall with Rosh Hashanah. Autumn can feel like a new year too. The cooler air re-energizes us after a languid summer, children return to school, and autumn’s vibrant colors freshen up the landscape. 

I have no objection if others celebrate a New Year that begins in the winter.  Rosh Hashanah gives us a chance to reflect on our lives and consider how we wish to change.  Why should others forgo the opportunity to remember the year that has passed and to make resolutions for the coming year?  

So, while I can’t bring myself to say “Happy New Year” when it doesn't feel like a new year to me, I can wish you a 2019 filled with many blessings.  Happy 2019, everyone!


Sat, December 7 2019 9 Kislev 5780