Our Beginnings

Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D.

We just completed a multitude of celebrations—from Thanksgiving, to Hanukkah, to New Year. And now, as we settle into a somewhat normal routine, we enter the month of February.

As an aside—how many know how the names of the months originated? Well, here goes:

January: named after the Roman god of beginnings and endings—Janus

February: named after the old Italian god—Februus—symbolizing purification

March: first month of the Roam year and named after the Roman god of war—Mars

April: originally called Aperire—to open, because of the time of the year when buds begin to open

May: the third month of the Roam calendar and derives from the word Maiesta—the Roam goddess of honor and reverence

I think you get the idea. Many of the traditions and customs we enjoy today had their origin in ancient festivals and observances. Time has made changes and even involved new understandings of life and all that is involved in the journey.

Which leads me into the month of February. The only holiday listed on our calendar is Presidents’ Day. Traditionally, there were two holidays—sequentially, they commemorate the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln, the great emancipator, and the other, George Washington, the father of our nation.

Somewhere in time, great minds got together and decided to combine the two holidays and save us the ordeal of two retail sale days. The true meaning of the celebrations is lost in the notion that shopping was the proper way to acknowledge these two icons of American history.

These two giants contributed to our development as a nation:

Abraham Lincoln kept us together as a nation by ultimately abolishing the stain of slavery from the fabric of our soul and reminded us that this nation was founded with the understanding that all men were created equal.

George Washington ensured our survival as a nation by determination to help break the shackles of ingratitude and arrogance as displayed by King George of England.

America is still the hope of the world as it was then. The message that was transmitted by a few courageous people reverberated around the world and is responsible, to this day, for millions of people being free. And we are a beacon to those yet wishing to taste liberty and independence. The lamp at the doorway to America is lit for all to see, for all to enjoy, for all to steer a path to its glow.

So, as we visit the malls and rummage through the newspapers looking for the coupons of the day, or even think about the origins of the names of the months, remember that it is possible because of these two men, their dreams and their courage, and their ability to motivate and encourage others to rally to their banner of hope.

God bless America. God bless the memory of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and … !