As New Year’s Eve approaches, I’m reminded once again of the difference between this joyous secular holiday on the one hand, and the way Jews celebrate the joyous holy day of Rosh Hashanah. Rabbi Sidney Greenberg once pointed out that at Rosh Hashanah we traditionally wish each other “a gut yahr – a good year” rather than “Happy New Year.” He said that this is because there is a world of difference between a holiday and a holy day:
- On holidays we run away from duties; on holy days we face up to them.
- On holidays we seek to let ourselves go; on holy days we try to bring ourselves under control.
- On holidays we try to empty our minds; on holy days we attempt to replenish our spirits.
- On holidays we reach out for the things we want; on holy days we reach up for the things we need.
- Holidays bring a change of scene; Holy days bring a change of heart.
As we prepare to bid adieu to 2012, I ask you to remember the promises you made to yourself in September as we ushered in 5773. And I invite you to join me tonight at 5:45, as we welcome the last Shabbat of the year.