The count of days foretells the counting of the last few seconds before the “ball” falls and it is 2019. We should seek to turn our blessing of life into a life of action and activity as we dream of what we hope to accomplish in the coming year and all the years to come. As we do all of this to our best ability, we say “shehecheyanu, vekimanu vehigianu lazman hazeh.”
A poem by D. Simone struck me:
“Take the time to enjoy those near you
Always stay positive never be blue,
The important things in life are never theirs
It is the relationship we have and the love they bring.”
On the night of my graduation from Henry Grady High School, I participated in a ritual which was in vogue then in 1955 in Atlanta. After all the ceremonies including the singing of “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” we all went to the Graduation Ball.
The “ritual” I mentioned was staying up all night and watching the dawn break. For most of us, including myself, we had never excitedly met the rising of the sun. Where the strength to keep awake came from I do not know, but I did it along with my classmates.
Is “staying up all night” a sign of our maturity? I really do not know. Now after all these years, what it does mean for me and hopefully for you is that whatever you resolve – you can accomplish. For some, it meant going to college and becoming a professional in the field you chose. For some today, it means traveling around the world, expanding your vision for all of your years to come. In Israel, it means entering the Army, “Tzahal,” (Israel Defense Forces) to be schooled in the ability to protect your nation.
Whatever road you take, you should develop the passion to make all the days of your life meaningful, and also raise up your children so they, too, can have their own path to tread.
The noted author, Ellen Goodman, wrote the words that follow:
“We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives … not looking for flaws, but for potential.”
Another author, Mehmet Murat İldan, makes the following suggestion for the new year:
“Never forget to thank your past years because they have enabled you to arrive at this junction. Without the stairs of the past, you cannot arrive at the future. What does each of us need in the New Year? You need a dream. Try to transform that dream into reality.”
Here in Israel are three Americans by birth, friends for more than 50 years, and a relative for that same period of time. In the past few years they have accomplished what few other immigrants (olim) have. One, Judge Steve Adler, married to our cousin Ruth Ziff Adler, made aliyah to Israel in the late 1960s. Over the period of years, he rose to be the first American-Israeli to be chosen the president judge of the National Labor Court of Israel.
A second, professor Shamma Friedman, is a native of Philadelphia, the cradle of Liberty. Through his studies and ingenuity, he has developed a high-tech program to place all versions of the Talmud, side-by-side, so that they can be studied to weave together a much more accurate text of the human-made code of the basis of Jewish law. For his achievement, he was awarded the highest honor of our nation, the Israel Prize. Now many study the Talmudic text which he developed.
The third, who just celebrated his 80th birthday, is professor Aaron Demsky, a historian of the Biblical period. When we were in school together at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in the 1960s, I witnessed him first honing his Biblical and Hebraic skills. After graduation, he and his wife moved to Israel in 1965. He earned his doctorate and then began to teach at Bar-Ilan University. He was a most prolific author in Hebrew and English. A few years ago, he was awarded the Bialik Prize of Tel Aviv, the highest honor given for a volume in Hebrew.
Few of us know the background of these individuals, unless we Google them. What we can see is how they matured. They grew and grew. All of us and generations to come can benefit from what they have given to us. Early in their lives, they committed themselves to succeed and be “ground-breakers.” How fortunate that they live in our age, and so we are living witnesses to their achievements.
Every new year in the civil calendar, as every Rosh Hashanah in our Jewish calendar, calls out to us – “make this year a most fruitful one.” The dictionary tells us that “fruitful” has a variety of meanings. The best one known is “producing much fruit, being fertile.”
Another is “producing good results, productive.” Also, in more human terms, it means “producing offspring.” Then, there is seeing “the result or reward of work or activity.” Surely, all know that fruitful means “the result of work or activity.”
God said to our ancestors “pru urevu,” “be fruitful and multiply.” What a great moment it is for us as we open the door to 2019. Whatever happens, and a great deal should, it is up to us. May all of you have Hashem’s blessings in the year to come.
I have been blessed that my wife Rita and I have had a beautiful life in Israel and the United States. On Shabbat, December 29, we will celebrate our 56th anniversary.