By Hannah Reich Berman
As Jews, we certainly are the chosen people. As if there isn’t enough proof of that I offer the following example—we get to celebrate two New Years while the rest of the world has only one. A good many people refuse to acknowledge that when December 31 slips into January 1, it is indeed a new year. Chances are that those who refuse to make the acknowledgment feel it is a betrayal of Rosh Hashanah and our belief system. Some of those individuals say nothing at all about the new year while others will go so far as to say “Happy 2015,” but will stop short of saying “Happy New Year.” Not me! I go with the flow and wish others a Happy New Year. This is because I am delighted to have another opportunity to make some resolutions. As it happens, most of my resolutions are not as resolute as I wish them to be, despite the fact that every Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur I make promises to try to do better in the coming year.
At that time, my vows are always about being a better person and doing the right thing. And, in my case, the atonement starts long before the Yom Kippur fast does. Those ten very important days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are more like eleven or twelve days for me since I begin to make vows well in advance. I promise myself (and Hashem) to be a better person and to do more for others. My list of ways to improve is a long one. Although my intentions are pure, it does not always work out. But when I pay attention to the Gregorian calendar, and as the old year is followed by the new one, I take that as an opportunity to do it all over again. It is like a do-over, which, in the world of golf, is known as a mulligan—a second chance to get something right. It is always a nice thing to have. Anything I messed up on, I will try once again to get it right.
What is sad is how quickly I fail the first time around. There are only a few months between September and December, yet, in that limited amount of time, some things always manage to slide by the wayside. So December 31 is my second chance to find my way back to my promises. I take advantage of this opportunity and I tell myself that it must have been set up this way for a reason. It is not (as I was taught as a youngster in my day school) about celebrating the b’ris of someone else’s G‑d. For me, it has nothing to do with anyone’s birth or his b’ris. It really is a new year and I know this to be true because it is the time of year when I used to foul up my checkbook by writing in the wrong year. I did that for a long time until someone told me how to avoid the problem. I paid attention to the advice that I got and now, at the end of each December, I write in that new year on the first ten or twelve checks until I become accustomed to writing the correct year. I already have 2015 written in. I don’t know who came up with that plan but it was a brilliant idea and it works for me.
Another reason that I like treating it as a “new year” is that every January 1 that I can remember, I have been able to start a new diet. And this is something that never works for me on Rosh Hashanah. It does not work because most of my resolutions are far more meaningful and important than gastronomic ones. It also does not work out well because, even if I do think of dieting, only five days after Yom Kippur is the start of more holiday time. Sukkos, Shemini Atzeres, and Simchas Torah follow on the heels of that all-important day of fasting and davening, and I happen to have something in common with Will Rogers. He was an actor, an author, and a social commentator who was known for his wit and his wisdom on Broadway and in the movies. And he was also the guy who said that he never met a man he didn’t like. In some ways I can relate. I never met a piece of stuffed cabbage (or a piece of kugel) that I didn’t like. And for that reason dieting right after Rosh Hashanah has never worked out for me. January 1 is a whole other story.
There are more reasons to be happy about the first day of any new year on the calendar. Regardless of one’s religious persuasion, most folks get a day off from work on January 1, which makes it nice for them. And even more important in the life of a shopaholic, the stores offer fantastic sales that week. So, without taking it too seriously, I will wish everyone a Happy New Year. And to anyone who questions it—yes, I know it is not our new year, but, for the above-mentioned reasons, it works for me. That’s the way it is.
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-902-3733.