December 2018/January 2019

Of the Book


By Daniel Bortz

As we approach the Gregorian new year of 2019, it’s customary in our culture to take on new resolutions, utilizing this time for a fresh start in an area of our lives. Even though we celebrate our New Year on Rosh Hashanah it’s always worthwhile to take good resolutions upon ourselves. But far from occurring only once a year, this excitement for newness and renewal is embedded in the entire fabric of our reality.

We see the human attraction to the new everywhere. A new song and a new melody or verse within that song brings joy.A novel insight by a teacher gladdens the mind and heart. We even have a special blessing for a new Mitzvah or item, known as: “She’hechiyanu”.

Sadly, we humans may seek newness often to our detriment. From intimate relationships and friends to our religious beliefs, we can get bored and search for the next exciting thing. And sometimes it’s the opposite: We gravitate to our favorite songs and movies, the loyalty and love of our spouse and best friends, to the religion and culture we grew up with.Which way is better and is there a way to harmonize these two human desires?

The Jewish mystics teach that our universe wasn’t only formed once, but is being created with new energy and intention at every moment of every day. Every second we live is a new opportunity for change and growth. No matter our past, or how bad today’s been going, we can rectify it all by utilizing this moment for positivity. The Torah says: “And Abraham was getting older (literally: ‘coming with his days’)” — he was bringing every moment and day he had utilized for good with him to the next world.

Every moment is new! Every interaction with a loved one is fresh. Imagine if today you approached the same person you’ve known forever, as if you had just met them. Might your discussion and connection take on a heightened value? The truth isn’t very far from this. Every morning we say “modeh ani” — thanking G-d for returning my soul and giving me new life today. Look at the same flowers and streets and sky with a fresh pair of eyes today. The killer to inspiration and spirituality is jadedness through repetition.The antidote is appreciating newness through a fresh, elevated perspective.

New adventures, journeys, teachings, friends, art – can be very beneficial and growth inducing. But as valuable is approaching nature and routine — the old — with new eyes. The word for song in Hebrew is”niggun”, in Hebrew: nun-gimmel-nun. It’s a palindrome, like a song which goes around and around. In the numerical symbolism of gematria, The word can be broken up into: Nun — 50, and Gan — garden. 50 symbolizes transcendence, going beyond7x7 (the natural order), into the Garden of Eden. A song is like a circle that repeats but each time taking us higher. There’s a reason we dance in circles at joyous occasions; it’s a taste of infinite potential, joy and unity without end.

In Jewish law, husband and wife separate every month from intimate contact for a certain amount of time, followed by an immersion into a mikvah — body of water. The deep wisdom here is in the fostering of newness and inspiration in a lifelong relationship. Far from a lowering of love and connection, in marriage we look to appreciate our partner with a newly felt and appreciated love.

For this year’s resolution, let’s decide to take every moment with newfound appreciation of everything we see and have; for another new breath in this unique life.


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