Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur just recently started off the Jewish New Year. Frankly, the year 5781 is off to a rough start. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a prominent figure in not only the American political world, but the Jewish one as well, passed away on Rosh Hashanah. That, coupled with a global pandemic, a crisis of racial injustice, and the global climate nearing a point of no return makes 5781 look bleak indeed.
But then, there are little things that happen that give me hope for the coming year. A barista recently charged me for a little, but gave me a large. I finally got around to getting a bedside table and assembling my headboard. I started my position as Vice Chair of an organization close to my heart. These things, while little, give me hope going into the New Year.
Hope is something that is discussed often in my tradition of Reform Judaism. There have been many times in our history as a people that we needed to hold onto the little things. It’s a common joke that our holidays are separated into two categories: ones about food, and ones about someone trying to kill us, and us miraculously surviving. The stories told around the dinner table are often ones detailing the big things: the plagues that ended our enslavement, the oil that lasted 8 days, the woman who managed to save our entire people. But on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, there aren’t big stories for us to share. Rather, it’s a time to reflect on the big and little that happened to us and plan for the big and little ahead.
This year, I plan to focus more on the little things that give me hope, rather than the big that do nothing but take it away. While many of us aren’t celebrating a New Year right now, I think that the Jewish New Year might actually come at the most opportune time to start over. With the school year barely beginning and the weather changing, it feels like there has been a shift already and I for one am taking advantage of that shift to give myself space to be hopeful and focus on the details.
In the world as it is right now, I find it even more important to focus on the fact that my new mask matches my outfit, rather than the global pandemic that necessitated mask-wearing in the first place. It is okay, perhaps even admirable, to give yourself the grace and space to focus on the little things that give you hope. We all need to take care of ourselves going into this New Year, and while so much of the media is focused on physical health, it is important to remind yourself to focus on mental health as well.
I wonder how other religions and faiths allow you all to focus on the little instead of always worrying about the big picture? And I ask all my non-Jewish and Jewish friends alike, if we all celebrated the Jewish New Year as we do the Gregorian one, what would your resolution be?