A New Year—Looking Back

Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D.

The most painful process in the human experience, other than death, is looking back, reliving our journey that brought us to today.

Most of us have an abundance of fond memories and, of course, sad ones as well. We try not to dwell on the sorrow, but somehow its ugly head pops up — whether in a smile we remember, an anniversary, or some special date on the calendar.

The truth is we try to find meaning in our lives. In addition, the happenings of yesterday play an important part in this quest. Mainly because we do not know what lies ahead, and we only have what was to guide us.

This is the true essence of a New Year. It is a New Year in the sense that we not only say goodbye to the old but, rather, plan for the future. It is a time set aside for us to take stock of what was with the purpose of imagining what can be. Accepting our mistakes, understanding full well that we can learn from them so that our lives will have greater meaning.

Sometimes there are voids in our lives that require us to search for new meaning. There are disappointments, tragedies, illnesses, not being able to communicate with a loved one because of something that really is insignificant. Perhaps not telling someone how we really feel about him or her, that we love them, that we are complete because they are part of our existence.

Well, just imagine God having the same thoughts.

God wants us to find meaning. That is why a path was established—the path of justice, mercy, thoughtfulness and understanding, the path of love, and a feeling for the intimacy of all humanity. There is the feeling of peace and friendship, the feeling of a good heart and good friends, AND the feeling of a decent life.

We yearn to stand in places of light. We yearn for hearts free from pain. We long for a vision not clouded by pre-dispositions, a glimpse offering us the opportunity to see all the blessings of life that are gifts from God.

We long for arms to enfold us during trying times. We long for God’s presence as we search for consolation and comfort.

Looking back can be an exhilarating experience because it will lead us to all things that make life an adventure.

This is what a New Year is all about: It is the first day of the rest of our lives. It is looking back with an eye to the future.

May all our experiences, both sad and glad, help us to achieve that goal of tomorrow because we had the courage to look back.