Who Needs New Years?

By Robert Lichtman

January 1? The Jewish People have Rosh HaShana in Tishrei as our “New Year,” and we are not the only ones who calibrate our calendar to sync up with our rhythm. If you wish to embark on a global journey of reawakening you can also celebrate Serbian new year on January 14, Persian new year on March 21, Cambodian new year on April 13, South African new year on August 1, Ethiopian new year on September 11.

But wait – there’s more! In addition to Rosh HaShana, we have 3* other “New Years.” Do we really need another on January 1?

As Jews we are encouraged to reflect daily upon our actions, our impacts upon others, our impacts upon ourselves. This is a Cheshbon HaNefesh, a soul-accounting. On our new year, the one in Tishrei, we expand our arc of assessment to stand as individuals and also as a community and as a People to reflect upon who we have been over the past year and who we would like to be in the coming year.

Each of those circles – we as individuals, we as a community, we as a People – intersect and interact with individuals, communities and peoples around us. The Garden was planted in this world. We are of this world. Our mission as Jews is to enhance this world.

So when the world in which we interact and depend upon to survive or to thrive pauses to breathe in the first moments of January 1, resolves to be better and starts anew, we as Jewish individuals, as a Jewish community, and as a Jewish People have an opportunity to participate in a global Cheshbon HaNefesh, to renew our commitment to be exemplar human beings as proud Jews – in the world.

January 1 is not our new year, it is another day for us to commit to be better. This is an opportunity we as Jews will always seize, and on this day we may do so in solidarity with our planet.

Robert Lichtman is the Chief Jewish Learning Officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ.

1. Tu B’Sh’vat (the date is in the name, 15 Sh’vat; coming up this January 21) – The ending of Israel’s rainy season and the beginning of sap-rising and fruit-ripening. “The New Year for Trees.”
2. The New Year for Kings (1 Nissan) – To begin the counting of a king’s reign. Nissan is also counted as the first of the Hebrew months.
3. The New Year for Tithes (1 Elul) – The demarcation point for calculating tithes on cattle (grain and vegetables are reckoned as of Rosh HaShana, 1 Tishrei)