January 1 will mark the beginning of 2021. A new year offers us the opportunity for renewal. It is a chance to bid farewell to the past, put challenges and troubles behind us, and look ahead to better and brighter things.
The new year on the Gregorian calendar, occurs at the solstice, which is when the sun is at its lowest point (in the Northern hemisphere). During this time, the winter day is at its shortest, and our mornings and evenings are darkest. The solstice is a “turning point” and marks the sun's return journey (or rather our journey relative to the sun) from its lowest point on our horizon to its zenith. January’s new dawn will bring more light and positive momentum, signaling that the difficult past is behind us and things will only get better and brighter.
The Jewish new year occurs 4 months earlier, around the (Autumnal) equinox. At this time of year the days and nights are equal in length but the sun has already begun its descent towards the south. At the equinox, the days grow shorter and the weather colder. In Israel, it is a time of final harvest, bounty, and joy, but it is also a time of decline rather than renewal. Soon, summer warmth and sunshine will be a distant, but cherished, memory.
The juxtaposition of these two approaches highlights the importance of looking back as much as we look forward. In looking back we can appreciate where we have been, where we are going, and how far we have to get there; sometimes we are farther along than we think. As we look ahead to 2021 let us also look back at how we’ve managed challenges, at the joy’s we’ve shared, and the creative ways we’ve stayed connected. Let’s appreciate what we’ve been able to overcome and how we’ve grown by accepting and navigating unexpected obstacles. May 2021 bring health and happiness, joy and warmth to you and your family.