I do not know about you but New Years never really excited me. Maybe it is because for most of my life “new year” was Rosh Hoshonnah. Or, maybe it stemmed from high school when the “pressure” to find a date for New Years and plan something memorable began sometime around Halloween. And, by the way, those plans were usually anti-climactic. Then there was the party phase. You know, just before and after you get married when the expectation was that you would go to or host some party and stand around for hours waiting for the “ball to drop”, trying to make conversation. Now of course, the challenge is to make it to see that ball drop.
2019 dawns with a whole bag of concerns, maybe more so than in recent memory. No, I am not just referring to the political jumble; that is a book unto itself. What is becoming more of an issue for Boomers is the gnawing reality of time’s unending march. The first stage boomers are now knocking on the door of our mid 70s. Stuff is happening at an ever increasing rate and the fact that we cannot control time and health is becoming more present. Again, the choice on how to see the rest of our lives confronts us. Interestingly, as we look around, the choices associated with aging are becoming more global. The so-called “age wave” or “silver tsunami” is here. Longevity is re-defining “retirement” as never before all across the globe. A recent piece in the N.Y.Times quoted a survey that looked at this global explosion of aging. The executive director of the Aegon Center for Longevity and Retirement noted that “What is most striking is that in every country, policymakers, employers and everyday people are grappling with the implications of aging populations. Even though the countries are very different in their own way, everything from culturally to the nature of their inner workings of their retirement systems, they all share the same challenges and the same problem going forward.”
On a personal level, for in the end all of this is personal, we know that there will be challenges ahead. If we are given the gift of life, these challenges come with that gift. Change, as we all know, is the only constant. Judaism, in its richness, does give us a foundation of how to look at each day as a new gift. Our tradition underscores the value of making choices that sanctify life and enhance personal dignity even when those choices seem to be less than optimal. Judaism, through its tradition and texts, remind us that as we begin this secular year, to celebrate life with the gift of our life and our gratitude for life. Being, as Heschel noted, is a blessing.
Each of us will face new challenges and choices, often unexpected. For many of us, faith and family will be tested. It is our belief in the inherent goodness of people and the hope that our life has meaning and purpose that can sustain us. In the end, I think, we can all respond to the morning blessing of our faith: modeh ani l’fanecha—I give thanks for another day. Each day is a blessing, a gift, and we can open our eyes to open the gift not knowing what each day will bring. That is our challenge.
Have a sweet, healthy and peaceful 2019
Rabbi Richard F Address