Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D.
Another year has begun. What kind of year just passed and what kind of a year lies ahead? These are just two of the questions we will ask ourselves, as we do each year at this time.
It was a year that was filled with traumas and destruction and, more importantly, the loss of so many lives because of a virus that was uncontrollable and saw many ignore the science as 800,000 of our fellow countrymen perished.
It was a year that saw a building collapse with people snuggled in their beds, unaware that in an instant they would be no more. It was a year in which floods and hurricanes inundated our cities and destroyed life and property.
It was a year that contained heinous crimes and indiscriminate killings and murders involving not only adults, but children in the prime of their lives as they attempted to learn the purpose and value of life.
It was a year that was filled with the most hate-filled rhetoric that has become uncontrollable. It was a year in which civility seemed to be a thing of the past and violent episodes prevailed, even in the treasured halls of our government.
It was a year that will be remembered for a long time, more than perhaps others.
Some of us will never stop wondering 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 imagine what could have been and as we imagine what will be in the new year. Perhaps it is best illustrated by the following story:
A student was having a discussion with his teacher. “Someday, I, too, hope to become a teacher,” 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 and all life therein? 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?
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 also 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.
As we embark on another year, we all should listen to our inner voice that tells us life is to live and treasure, because it is a gift that keeps on giving. 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.