Next week we shall usher in the year 2011. We have all kinds of resolutions that we typically make, though we're fairly confident we will not fulfill them. Yet we shall proclaim them before family and friends anyway.
We will be watching our weight and trying that new diet. Some of us will be heading out to the gym for that two- or three-week burst of guilt energy that will take us to the treadmill and, of course, the venerable muscle-building machines.
Some will promise not to take another drink again.
Others will focus on family and spending more time reaching out to those we've been estranged from over the years. Some will decide it is time to end a marriage and others will rededicate themselves to heal the breeches of a troubled relationship.
Maybe one day we will rise up and work on these perennial unresolved issues and actually surprise ourselves, let alone our loved ones, who will shout out joyfully on our behalf "Hallelujah!"
New Year's Day is not only about a transition in the way we count time itself, but it becomes a time of great expectations to re-evaluate our place in life.
So today I want to suggest a question to ask ourselves that comes directly out of the Bible to begin this process of introspection. In the Book of Genesis, God caught Adam eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. God could have gone ballistic by screaming and yelling at him and Eve for committing the first sin in history. Instead God took a different approach and asked Adam one simple question. "Where are you?" What a powerful way to stun Adam into recognizing the enormity of the sin and how far he had gone astray.
So now here is the question for us. We must ask ourselves "Where are you?" Asking the question is easy -- only three simple words. The challenge is to reflect upon that question. What does it mean in regard to how we have conducted our lives? That is where the rubber meets the road.
In my tradition we have an expression, "Do not look at the bottle, rather, look at the inside of it." Some would say that the maxim "Don't judge a book by its cover," touches the same point. New Year's is a great opportunity to make a difference for ourselves in this world. Many of us look just fine on the outside and feel the opposite on the inside. We are carrying around a lot of hurt and pain. We hide all of it so well every day. But there comes a moment or an opportunity like New Year's to summon up inside ourselves the courage to stand up and say "No more! I want to change. I want to find peace or shalom."
In Judaism we focus on these issues of renewal and introspection during the time of the High Holy Days. The truth is that all religions advise that any time is the right time to change ourselves for the better. So in addition to going out to dinner or a party and driving responsibly on New Year's Eve, take the time to map out a "This is what I'm really going to do for myself this year" list. Take one item from that list and work on it. Keep a diary and write in it several times a week. Hold it until next December and read it out loud and relish in a sense of satisfaction that you did it.
And what about me, you might ask? Oh, yes, I have been asking myself that same question from Scripture. I have written that list, too. So the one issue I have chosen this year in response to the biblical question "Where are you?," is to lose some weight. "Less is more" will be my goal this year. I know my congregation and family will support me, and I shall report back to you on my progress.
I pray that we can all repair something that feels broken in our lives and emerge out of 2011 better and wiser people for what we invested in the year and in ourselves.
I wish everyone a happy, healthy and safe new year.
Rabbi Brad L. Bloom is the rabbi at Congregation Beth Yam on Hilton Head Island. He can be reached at 843-689-2178. Read his blog at www.fusion613.blogspot.com and follow him on Twitter @rabbibloom.