Why this Time of Year, for Jews, is all about our New Year
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Kol Nidrei had just ended, the High Holidays were truly the highest, and everyone felt uplifted and on fire.

While walking out of shul, a certain chassid approached his Rebbe and confidently asked, “Wasn’t your Yom Kippur amazing?!” The Rebbe paused for a second and responded, “How should I know? Ask me at Chanukah time and I will be able to tell you if Yom Kippur was truly successful.”

I am still moved by the spiritual electricity of the sanctuary as we Jews close off Neilah together – a culmination of all the messages shared inside the sanctuary over the course of the High Holidays.  I was – and still am – moved, and inspired to move.

Now it’s a few months later, time to see how far I have moved!  With the glowing lights of a beautiful (and mild) Chanukah behind us, 2016 on the horizon and many people taking time away for vacation and a little R&R, now is a great time to harness the energy of a new year to recharge and to reflect a little.  The story above, which I actually shared on Yom Kippur, is a short but powerful reminder that it is beneficial for us to periodically review how our year is progressing.  I know that I have begun to reflect on my own forward momentum, so that I can adjust and ensure that I am still moving forward.

The closing message that I shared in shul for Yom Kippur was not mine, but a quote from an email I had received from one of my congregants:

“I couldn’t let another year come and go without saying this. I want this year to be different.”

How honest. How real. How challenging!  Easy to say at the time because that’s when we truly feel it, but the strength is in its pursuit.

As in all areas of life, there are some goals we achieve, others we surpass, and still others where we fall short.  We should celebrate the achievements we have made and then pursue with even more determination the areas where we had hoped to achieve more.

“I couldn’t let another year come and go without saying this. I want this year to be different.”

I am sure that so many of us have things that we should be proud of – I see the momentum of so many of you and I’m sure you do too.  At the same time, just as I am doing, I encourage you to honestly examine whether there are other resolutions which you seem to have stalled on.  Just by reflecting, we are empowering ourselves with the ability to choose our next steps, rather than sinking into complacency.  Complacency is not a Jewish idea; rather, “Lech Lecha” (“get going”) as spoken to Abraham as his first words, still echo as our credo to this very day.  It’s embedded in our Jewish DNA to be able to leave behind things which are not working and move on to a better spiritual place.  The game only ends when you admit defeat

Complacency is not a Jewish Idea; rather, “Lech Lecha” (“get going”) as spoken to Abraham as his first words, still echo as our credo to this very day.

In the new year, I hope to be in touch with each of you, both to connect and to see if or where I can help you on your personal journey.  For the next couple of weeks I am looking forward to hearing from those of you who want to initiate the conversation.  After that, I look forward to following up with everyone, so that by next year, there will be no doubt that Yom Kippur was truly successful!

To a happy and healthy 2016!
Rabbi Rafi