There sure have been a lot of new beginnings in my life over the past few months. I started a brand new job, at a brand new congregation, in a brand new country. My wife, Staci, and I moved into our new home and started our son in his new preschool/camp. We are meeting new friends and visiting new places. There is an excitement to all the possibilities that come with fresh starts. There is the amazement that comes with experiences never before encountered and an enthusiasm that comes with fresh opportunities.
Concurrent with that, however, are a lack of certainty and a loss of comfort that comes with the familiar. I knew (nearly) all of my congregants names at my previous congregation. I didn’t need my GPS in Atlanta to get to nearly every new place I visited. I knew where the best produce could be found and where to get socks I liked. The unfortunate challenge that comes with the amazing opportunities of a new beginning is the loss of the familiar and the comfortable. The arrival of a painful process of re-acclimation in order to settle in once more to the life I once knew. That is the price we pay for a new beginning.
Over the next few weeks, we will often extend the greeting, “A Happy and/or Healthy and/or Sweet New Year!” When expressing that sentiment, we mean the happy, healthy and sweet, but I think the new that comes with Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, is often lost. We will be attending the same services, eating the same meals, with the same people that we do every year. We find comfort in the familiar, while the shofar blasts are meant to awaken us to the reality that “Hayom Harat Olam (Today the world is born anew).” The world is full of new possibilities – will we truly take advantage?
Let me provide a benign example of this challenge. A number of years ago, my mother-in-law came to visit us in Atlanta. She is a vegetarian and my wife and I are not. For dinner on both days of Rosh Hashanah, I made dairy/vegetarian dishes so that we could all share the same meal together (sushi one night and grilled cheese and tomato soup the next, in case you were wondering). My mother-in-law was mortified! How could we be serving sushi on Rosh Hashanah? Where were the brisket, turkey and chicken soup? To which I responded, that I wanted us all to be able to share a meal together and, since she wouldn’t eat those foods, none of us would. She had changed and therefore, we all could change as a result. We could leave behind the familiar foods of the past and embrace the new foods our grandparents likely would never have recognized.
It is hard to leave behind the comfortable and the familiar and embrace the new that exists within our world and, more importantly, within us. It is scary and often challenging to do so. But, unless we are willing to take that first step and explore the amazing possibilities that come with something new, we are not truly embracing all that Rosh Hashanah has to offer. So, this New Year, let’s endeavour to try something we haven’t tried before: learn a new skill or meet some new people.
Today the world is born anew. Let’s make the most of it.