Happy 2019! – a new secular year lies before us.
It was just a few months ago that we celebrated the beginning of our Jewish New Year (5779).
In fact, we actually have four New Year days in the Hebrew calendar: The first of Nisan – which
falls in the first month of the Hebrew calendar – was the new year for counting the length of the
reigns of kings in ancient Israel. The first of Elul – which falls in the sixth month – was the new
year for animal tithes. The first of Tishrei – which we know as Rosh Hashanah, and falls in the
seventh month of the Hebrew calendar – is similar to the first of January in that it marks the day
when the calendar year advances. It is also seen as the birthday of the creation of the world,
begins the ten days of repentance, and marked the start of Sabbatical and Jubilee years when land
was left fallow. And the fifteenth of Shvat, known better as Tu BiShvat – which occurs in the
twelfth month, and this year falls on January 20 – is the new year for trees, and is used as the
starting date for determining the age of the trees.
So what do we learn from the presence of all these New Year days in our lives? Each New
Year’s Day reminds us of beginnings and ends, of the inevitability of time moving on (with or
without us), of the importance of “counting our days that we might know a heart of wisdom,”
and of the opportunities we so often have to control not time itself but rather our use of the time
So happy new year yet again! – and remember to always keep using your precious time well, and
with great wisdom.