What I like best about the new year—any new year, be it religious or secular—is its illusion of freshness, newness, another chance at perfection. Or maybe I've got it wrong; maybe the world is made new every day and thinking of it any other way is false. . . . In any case, I savor the idea that I could actually start fresh—really do yoga every day, keep my office as clean as it is today (having been ruthless with my stacks of books and papers for once), be more patient and compassionate, even with myself.
This diving into "tikkun," or fixing, is what we are charged to do: to fix the world, beginning with ourselves. That's a big order. So why should it feel so good to clear the decks and start over—knowing full well that I probably won't be able to do more than graze the edges of my goals and that most of my resolutions will get broken in the end? Maybe it's because no one ever gives up hope. To have hope that I really can do better, live better, be better is not just a choice; it's a leap of faith. And I call that a miracle, too.
One thing that feels true to me is that the celebration of the new year is more than an acknowledgment of the cyclical relationship of the earth and the sun (though that's certainly a valuable and deeply human source). It must also have to do with our own capacity for change—a capacity that is present to us every single day but that we seldom acknowledge except at junctures like this one, a moment in time that requires us to do something different, even something as small as forming the habit of writing the year with a different last digit or as life-altering as committing to talking out loud to God every day.
Since any longer span of time can only be lived from day to day, here's a gift for 2008, for 5768, and for every year to come, from Fanny Neuda's prayer "At Morning I":
In hours of pain, teach me, O God,
To accept your will with humility
And to recognize your presence in everything.
Bless this day for me, that it be a day of goodness,
A day of purpose, a day of success,
A day that sanctifies my life. Amen.
May your year and mine be filled with such days.