A New Year—a New Beginning!

Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D.

Here we are in another year. What kind of year has passed and what kind of a year lies ahead?

What kind of year are we saying goodbye to?

It was a year that was filled with traumas and destruction and, more importantly, the loss of so many lives because of the COVID-19 virus and RSV and the flu.

It was a year in which floods and hurricanes inundated our cities and destroyed life and property.

It was year of murder and mayhem in our streets, in our schools, and in areas that were thought to be peaceful.

It was a year that witnessed destruction and atrocities in a faraway country.

Some of us will wonder whether we did enough to matter, and some will contemplate about things that never were and maybe will never be. Through it all, however, there is one constant theme that will resonate within us as we sit and sing and pray and listen, and it is something I think about, not just at this season, but all year long, and it is best illustrated by the following story:

A seminary student was having a discussion with his teacher. “Someday, I, too, hope to become a preacher,” said the youth. “Aside from my studies, is there any other all-important qualification I will need?” “Yes, the stimulus of imagination,” replied the teacher. “You will have to imagine that somebody is paying attention to what you say.”

Will we listen to the climate watchers who shout from the rooftops to stop the destruction of our planet? Will we listen to our medical professionals who warn us that science is the answer to combating illness and disease? Will we listen to each other as we attempt to bring sanity to a chaotic environment?

I believe that all of us during our lifetime have wondered whether anyone listens to us. We have a great deal to say, because communicating is the most significant way of connecting.

Sometimes we say things that really don’t matter and, of course, we do say things that affect our lives and those around us. Sometimes we say things that have different meanings, because we are not clear and precise. Sometimes we say things we really don’t mean, because we want to be sensitive to another’s feelings. And sometimes we say things that aren’t true, because we are too ashamed or embarrassed as to our real intent.

A new year gives us an opportunity to say things to God we never thought we had the ability to express. There are thoughts we have that mean so much, because we are at a stage in life where minutes, hours, days, weeks, and years are precious and not to be wasted.

It takes a great deal of imagination to expect that God is listening and hears our words, because we believe we cannot see, or touch, or even hear an answer. But it doesn’t take imagination to realize that answers can come from experiences and happenings that remind us we do matter. We see the miracles of life daily, but we tend to ignore them. We can touch a loved one, because that touch awakens the understanding of togetherness and companionship. We hear laughter at joyous times and tears that fall when we lose someone we love or witness illness.

As we embark on another year, we all should listen to our inner voice that tells us life is to live and treasure. Listen to a friend or relative as they reach out for understanding and compassion. And if we are having difficulty hearing, be sure we are tuned in to what is being said.