Secular It Is, But …

“Secular it is, but …” were the words that my Rabbi, Charles Akiva Annes, of blessed memory, began his January message in the Temple Sharey Tefilo (East Orange, NJ) Bulletin.

His point was that for Jews the real New Year, Rosh Hashanah, occurred sometime in September but that the beginning of a new secular year could also have significance.

Rosh Hashanah begins a period of intense self-scrutiny culminating ten days later on Yom Kippur. During that time our tradition implores us to engage in serious soul searching with an eye toward improving ourselves in the New Year.

For me, Rabbi Annes’ message and the arrival of the new secular year spark a question: “That Rosh Hashanah stuff, how are you doing with that?”

In our weekly Torah reading we transition from the Book of Genesis to the beginning of Exodus. In the first weekly portion God encounters Moses in a Burning Bush, and in that vision, Moses charts the course for the remainder of his life. He is no longer content to be a shepherd in Midian. He accepts God’s commission to return to Egypt and lead our people from slavery to freedom.

Our Sages comment that a burning bush is not such an unusual site in the desert. Only a person of great sensitivity and insight would take time to notice that although the bush was burning, the flames did not consume it. Only one such as Moses could have seen a life-changing message in that bush.

I think “burning bushes” cross all of our paths from time to time. Will we see the potential in them for us to add purpose and significance to our lives as Moses did or will we, like most people, just pass them by?

January 1, then, is like a booster shot for me. It reminds me of the goals I set for myself on Rosh Hashanah, and hopefully it will spur me to greater efforts to make my life a blessing to others.

Depending on the exigencies of the Hebrew Calendar, January 1 arrives when the Jewish year is ¼ to 1/3 complete. It is a good time to ask myself, have I become any kinder, more understanding, less judgmental as I vowed I would try to be on Yom Kippur? Have I done anything to make someone’s life richer and more fulfilling?

Perhaps, but I can do better.

“Secular it is,” but the arrival of a new calendar year invites us to revisit our hopes and ideals. Will we sleepwalk through our lives or will we look each day for the unconsumed burning bush that ignites in our soul the resolve to make a positive difference in our world?


2 thoughts on “Secular It Is, But …

  1. Hello my friend. Happy New Year. No I will not sleep walk through my life! 🙂 I’m very much aware of this soul searching and also something I keep wanting to share with you. My mother had all of my siblings and myself do a DNA. I’ve always known I am Finnish but the most exciting thing is that we are also part Ashkenazi Jewish, hope I’m spelling that right. Isn’t that the most amazing thing? It is to me because I’ve always said I wished I was Jewish. I can’t really say that I’ve ever lived my life like this but I can say that I always knew there was so much more to God then I realized. I think this 2017was a deepening of my relationship with God and also this morning I was had this feeling like He’s my best friend. Hope you don’t mind me share this here. I really love what you wrote about the teaching you heard from the rabbi. I really love what you write and how you explain things. Hope this day finds you well and encouraged to keep on keeping on. Something that also struck me about God is that he will use a bushing bush, a donkey and even a rock to get to show us He’s always trying to communicate! I love that about Him. Blessings to you my friend! 🙂 Michelle


  2. So nice to hear from you, MichelleMarie and to read the discovery of your Jewish DNA. I hope you have a wonderful new year, and if you have any questions you think I can answer, feel free to ask!

    Liked by 1 person

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