Watching the Times Square ball drop last night (and can someone tell me the meaning of standing for hours and hours outside in drizzle just to watch a ball drop down to signal a new year) I was reminded of an old classic Edith Piaf song “je ne regrette rien”(I do not regret anything). I have no idea why that song popped into my head. We toasted 2023 with a hope that it will be better than 2022 (a low bar indeed) and that was it. Another new years eve leaving us with the question of what the fuss is all about.
Anyway, why that song? My sense is that, as we get older, we sometimes spend too much time looking back, living in a land of “what if” or “if only”. So, I began to think what it would be like if we were able to really let go of so many of the issues that keep holding on to us. We cannot control time and time, as we have mentioned numerous times, is the THE major issue for us now. It is something we cannot control and sits with us every day. Some of the liturgy of the High Holidays, and many sermons, try and teach us to look forward. Someone once taught that life is lived forward but understood backwards. The windshield in our car is larger than the rear window reminding us that where we are going is more important than where we have been. But there is so much that is in our past that we often fixate on regrets.
So maybe this 2023 can find us with the courage to move into our own futures with the resolution to cast off focusing on regrets. After all, we cannot change what was, We can learn from it and try and understand how to not replicate that which we regret. We can say I’m sorry but, we must move on. Regret can bind us to a past and cause us to sacrifice dreams and hopes, deeds and tomorrows. That Akedah is real in its application to each of our own stories.
Yes, it is hard to move in the direction of no regrets. I do not know if it is even possible. But, a suggestion: let us try to seek what or who may be our own authentic self. Let’s try and not live our own life as defined by others, but as we choose to define it, and in doing so, cast off any regret for not living up to someone else’s preconceived notion of who we should be.
Longevity has given us a gift to seek new definitions of self. Medical science has been a blessing to enhance, for many, that longevity. The gratitude for life is part of our liturgy and, hopefully, our daily existence. We are all moving forward, let us do so focusing in what can be, not what was.
Have a safe and healthy 2023
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.