January 1 is an auspicous day for most of America. It holds absolutely no significance for a Jew, whose year begins on Rosh Hashana. However, since much of the world is looking back and reflecting on a year gone by, we may as well take the opportunity to do some introspection as well. (No time is the wrong time for some serious contemplation.)
Though 2011 had its moments of joy and triumph, much of what comes to mind about the past year is tragic. There were numerous deaths of prominent rabbis, leaders and heads of yeshivas, including (in random order) Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel of the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem, Rabbi Dov Schwartzman of Yeshiva Bais HaTalmud in Jerusalem, Rabbi Chaim Stein of Telz Yeshiva in Cleveland, Ohio and Rebbetzin Batsheva Kanievsky, who counseled thousands of woman from her home in Bnei Brak, Israel. There were a number of tragedies involving the deaths of children and teenagers, such as the two young students who were killed in a car accident on their way back to their yeshiva in Waterbury, Connecticut. There was Hurricane Irene, which did less damage than predicted but still claimed lives and property damages. There was of course the shocking murder of Leiby Kletzky of Boro Park, New York in the summer. Israel witnessed more than a couple of terrorists attacks, including the Itamar massacre which left three children mourning their parents and siblings. America had its fair share of anti-Semitic incidents as well.
The list goes on, but one thing is clear: it’s been a rough year for the Jewish people. Even the joyous event of the long-awaited release of Gilad Shalit was marred by the knowledge that hundreds of terrorists were released in exchange.
So what do we do about it? How do we respond to a year filled with one tragedy after another?
One thing is certain: we cannot shrug it off as just another year. We have to search for the meaning, for the message that G-d is sending. Because He is definitely sending us a message.
Each individual has to find their own answer to the question. How can I improve? What can I do to show G-d that I’m listening?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Everyone has room for improvement and (with the guidance of a qualified rabbi if need be) should come up with some “New Year’s Resolutions” that speak to their own situation, personality and character.
What do we do about it? I don’t know, but do something. Now. So that 2012 will be a happier year for all of the Jewish people.