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Two Jewish Stories and a Blessing for the New Year

Two Jewish Stories and a Blessing for the New Year

Open pocketwatch with clock face visible in front of blurred and colorful confetti

The secular New Year is upon us. What will you make of the year to come?

Playwright Hillary DePiano wrote, “We all get the exact same 365 days. The only difference is what we do with them.”

Will they be days of promise and tikvah (hope) for you? Will you write bracha (blessing) and chesed (kindness) into the story of your life?

Perhaps the only thing standing in your way is… you. As former Israeli President Shimon Peres once said, “There are no hopeless situations, only hopeless people.”

You can become the dream you hold within your heart.

Lessons from the Shoemaker

Consider this story.

One night, Rabbi Yisrael Salanter walked past the shoemaker’s home. Despite it being very late, he noticed that the shoemaker was still busy, working by the light of a candle. “Why are you still working?” Rabbi Salanter asked him. “It is very late and soon the candle will go out.”

The shoemaker replied “As long as the candle is still burning, it is still possible to accomplish and to mend shoes.”

Rabbi Salanter notes the wisdom of this encounter: As long as our candles are still burning, we can still accomplish much and mend our mistakes (and our world).

What are you still waiting to accomplish? How will you mend yourself (tikkun atzmi) and mend our world (tikkun olam)?

Wisdom from Dear Abby

And this story.

The “Dear Abby” advice column was written by the late Abigail Van Buren, who was actually a Jewish woman named Pauline Phillips from Sioux City, IA. Her chochma (wisdom) for writer “Unfulfilled in Philly” speaks to new moments, of times like New Year’s when we rethink our future.

“Unfulfilled in Philly” wrote that he would love to be a doctor, but if he were to go back to college and get his degree, then go to medical school, then do an internship, and finally practice medicine, it would take him seven years and he’d be 43 years old.

Dear Abby astutely asked: “How old will you be in seven years if you don’t do all those things? It’s better to fulfill our dreams later in life than never.”

What dreams will you begin to fulfill now so you won’t regret it seven (or seventy years) later?

Blessings beyond the Booze

Finally, there’s this:

Some people will celebrate New Year’s by doing shots of vodka or tequila. The highs may be profound for a short while, might lead to giddy or even foolish behavior, and will assuredly be over well before the sun sets after your first day of the new year.

My prayer for you:

In this secular New Year, may you instead (or in addition) take shots of love and hope, kindness and compassion, as these shots will make you high not low, make you feel like a mensch not a fool, and when you wake up in the morning, you will still feel drunk on blessing and goodness.

This new year, zaya bracha – go be a blessing!

Rabbi Paul Kipnes the spiritual leader of Congregation Or Ami in Calabasas, CA. He serves as rabbinic dean at URJ Camp Newman in Santa Rosa, CA, and as vice president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Rabbi Kipnes and his wife Michelle November co-wrote Jewish Spiritual Parenting: Wisdom, Activities, Rituals and Prayers for Raising Children with Spiritual Balance and Emotional Wholeness (Jewish Lights). He also co-edited a national CCAR Journal issue on New Visions for Jewish Community. Under his leadership, Congregation Or Ami has won national awards for social justice programming, for innovative worship programming, for outreach to interfaith families, and for engaging family education, and for best overall use of technology in a synagogue. Or Ami also wins the hearts of its families for its Henaynu caring community, which reaches out during times of need. He serves on the Rhea Hirsch School of Jewish Education clinical faculty at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. His writings can be viewed on his blog, Or Am I? He tweets @RabbiKip.



Rabbi Paul Kipnes
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