Say Little, Do Much: A New Beginning
By RABBI JOSEPH H. PROUSER
“Kol Hatchalot Kashot,” say the Sages: “All new beginnings are difficult” (see Mechilta d’Rabbi Yishmael, Rashi, etc.). A long popular Israeli song, written by Nisan Friedman, takes this Rabbinic adage as its title and refrain. This truth is never so evident as with the onset of a new year. It was recently reported that nearly 50 percent of Americans make annual New Year’s resolutions as January approaches. The same study, alas, observes that, of those, only some nine percent achieve success in their aspirations for self-improvement or a new personal direction.
While the “civil” new year is hardly a Jewish liturgical event, the rabbis of the Mishnah themselves acknowledged a variety of “new year” milestones, scattered throughout the calendar (see Rosh Hashanah 1:1). It would be ungrateful of us – we who are so immersed in, we whose sense of time is so defined by the civil calendar – not to celebrate the beginning of 2018.
More importantly, we would be squandering a valuable spiritual opportunity were we to ignore the possibility of growth and change which this calendrical milestone represents. True: “All new beginnings are difficult.” But as the concluding lyrics of the corresponding Israeli pop song remind us: “Mah tov she’higata l’khan!” – “How wonderful that we have come this far!”
(Rabbi Joseph Prouser is the rabbi at Conservative Temple Emanuel of North Jersey. He also serves as the National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.)