Enter 2019 with resolve and resolutions

Whatever road you take, develop the passion to make all the days of your life meaningful.

FIREWORKS EXPLODE in celebration of New Year’s Day on January 1, 2018, over the towers of the St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle. (photo credit: REUTERS)
FIREWORKS EXPLODE in celebration of New Year’s Day on January 1, 2018, over the towers of the St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The count of days foretells the counting of the last few seconds before the “ball” falls and it is 2019. We should seek to turn our blessing of life into a life of action and activity as we dream of what we hope to accomplish in the coming year and all the years to come. As we do all of this to our best ability, we say sheheheyanu, vekiyemanu, vehigianu lazman hazeh, in gratitude for having been preserved until now.
A poem struck me recently: “Take the time to enjoy those near you/ Always stay positive, never be blue/ The important things in life are never theirs/ It is the relationships we have and the love they bring.” On the night of my graduation from Henry Grady High School, I participated in a ritual that was in vogue then in 1955 Atlanta. After all the ceremonies, including the singing of “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” we all went to the graduation ball, after which came the ritual of staying up all night and watching the dawn break. Most of us, including myself, had never excitedly met the rising sun. Where the strength to keep awake came from I do not know, but I succeeded in staying up along with my classmates.
Is staying up all night a sign of maturity? I really don’t know. After all these years, what it now means for me, and hopefully for you, is that whatever we resolve we can accomplish. For some it meant going to college and becoming a professional in the field we chose. Today, for some, it means traveling around the world, expanding our vision for all the years to come. In Israel, it means entering the army, to be schooled in the ability to protect our nation.
Whatever road you take, develop the passion to make all the days of your life meaningful. And raise your children so they too can have their own path to tread. The noted author Ellen Goodman wrote: “We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives, not looking for flaws but for potential. Never forget to thank your past years, because they have enabled you to arrive at this junction. Without the stairs of the past, you cannot arrive at the future. What does each of us need in the New Year? You need a dream. Try to transform that dream into reality.” Here in Israel there are three Americans by birth – friends for over 50 years – and two who have been relatives for that same period of time. They have accomplished what few other immigrants have.
One, Judge Steve Adler, married our cousin Ruth Ziff Adler and made aliyah in the late 1960s. Over the years, Steve rose to become the first American-Israeli chosen as president of Israel’s National Labor Court.
A second, Prof. Shamma Friedman, is a native of Philadelphia, “the cradle of liberty.” Through his studies and ingenuity, Shamma has developed a hitech program that placed all versions of the Talmud side-by-side so they can be studied to weave together a more accurate text of the human-made code that is the basis of Jewish law. For his achievement he was awarded the highest honor of our nation: the Israel Prize. Many people now study the talmudic text that he developed.
The third, who just celebrated his 80th birthday, is Prof. Aaron Demsky, a historian of the biblical period and a pioneer in the study of Jewish names. In the 1960s, when we were in school together at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, I witnessed Aaron first honing his biblical and Hebrew skills. In 1965, after graduation, Aaron and his wife moved to Israel, where he earned his doctorate and began to teach at Bar-Ilan University. He was a most prolific author in both Hebrew and English. A few years ago, he was awarded the Bialik Prize of Tel Aviv, the highest honor given for authoring a volume in Hebrew. Few of us know the background of these individuals unless we Google them. What we can see is how they matured and grew. All of us now and in generations to come can benefit from what they have given to us. Early in their lives they committed themselves to succeed and be “ground-breakers.” How fortunate that they live in our age so we can be living witnesses to their achievements.
Every New Year of the civil calendar, and every Rosh Hashanah, calls out to us: “Make this year a most fruitful one.” The dictionary tells us that “fruitful” has a variety of meanings. The best-known is “producing much fruit, being fertile.” Another is “producing good results, productive.” In more human terms, it also means “producing offspring.”
Then there is seeing “the result or reward of work or activity.” God said to our ancestors, pru urevu, “be fruitful and multiply.” What a great moment it is for us as we open the door to 2019. Whatever happens, and a great deal should, is largely up to us. May all of you have Hashem’s blessings in the year to come.