Do you remember when the Beatles broke up? Perhaps you are too young to recall. Or maybe it didn't matter to you. But I am sure you can recall wonderful joys in life that you thought by every right should go on forever, but came to end. For me there are many such sad realities. They began with the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn when I was seven. I could not imagine in my wildest dreams the end of such a glorious relationship between a team and its fans. And since then, to my chagrin, I have experienced the end of good things over and over. Each time not without a great sense of loss and sadness.
Rosh Hashana is nearly at hand. Selichos for we who are Ashkenazim will begin late Saturday night. Lets pause for a moment and think about the word 'shana', year in Hebrew. The noun 'shana' that is used to connote year has its roots in two verbs that seem to have contradictory meanings. At one level 'shana' means to change. 'L'shanot', a verb of the same three letter root as the noun 'shana', means to alter. And surely that is part of what is implied in a 'year'. It is a time standing alone, with its own opportunity, and its own character. Each year has its own uniqueness. It is in some ways like no other. On an another level 'shana' as a verb also means to repeat, to do again. The 5th book of the Torah is called "Mishne Torah". 'Mishne ' has as its root the same three letters of 'shana', and here it means to repeat, to repeat the essence of the first 4 books of the Torah in this the concluding 5th book.
And truly a year is in some ways a repeat of the past and a bridge to the future. Each year has a number in a sequence. It is part of a continuum.
The paradox of 'shana' is that it is both a period that stand alone in time, something new and unprecedented and as well it is a time frame that belongs to a sequence and repeats what was and propels it into the future.
As we come to Rosh Hashana, the head of the year, and prepare for the Holy Days, we might find it helpful to keep both these meanings in mind and personalize them for the 'shana' we anticipate. Each of us has a life filled with investements of our time and resources. We have projects we work on and a daily routine.
We have loyalties and commitments. The question we need ask ourselves as the new year is about to commence is what in our lives needs to contimue and what needs to change. Just because I did something well in the year or years gone bye does not assure it needs to continue. Perhaps it's time in our life is past.
And 'shana' requires newness and change. The Dodgers were in Brooklyn for some 60 years. They were a fabric of life. As sure as the dafodils of spring were the sounds of baseball at Ebbets Field. The Beatles made hit record after hit record. Little doubt they could have gone on forever. But every thing, even good things have a life span. They cannot endure eternally in this world of change. The trick is to know when to make the change, when a good thing has lived its full life, and it's time to move on. Resisting change is tempting. Its scarey to end and begin anew. Yet that is exactly what one of the messages of embracing the New Year calls for.
True, it is equally important to renew our resolve to repeat that which warrants repeating. That too is part of what it means to embrace the New Year. We need to be faithful to those things that needs to continue. We need to reinvest in them with passion and not let them fall into habitual behavior. We need each year to commit again to the values, beliefs, and practices that are central to our lives as Jews and good people. They must not lapse or become stale.
And at times it is hard to know what should be changed and what we should sign on for for another year. Many of us are all too eager to change, and perhaps too quick to let go of the past. Others of us are overly fearful of the new and hold on to things long after their time of meaning in our lives has past.
No wonder we need this time of reflection and intropsection at the end of the old year and the at the start of the new. Our decisions about what we retain and what we change are hugely consequential.
This year I have decided that I need to focus on 'shana' as change. And I need to give up something that I have invested in these past 5 years, the blog, "The Torah and the Self". Its not that I don't think writing each week has had meaning for me, and I hope for you. It has indeed. It's just that the time has come to put this blog to bed.
The Dodgers left Brooklyn but didn't stop playing baseball. The Beatles made music long after the group disbanded, only now as individuals and not as a group.
I am sure I too will use my creative energies to give voice to thoughts and feelings. The format will change. I remain who I am and the struggle to grow and become continues. I am sure I will need to find expression to that struggle and share it with you in ways that make us community.
I am thankful to all of you who have read the "Torah and the Self" over the years. I appreciate your comments and knowing that you too struggle to grow and become.
Chazak Chazak V'neetchazaik....Let us be strong, indeed very strong, and strengthen each other!
With blessings for you for a New Year of renewed commitment to what was and a year where we will find the courage to change those things whose time has past,
Yisrael ben Yosef