Spiritually-inclined people always look for new opportunities to start over. January 1st has very little significance in Jewish thought, but if there is an excuse to make a new resolution, to find freshness in your daily routine or to celebrate, why not grab it and make the most of it?
But did you know that the Jewish calendar also celebrates a time for a new beginning this week? This Shabbat we will begin reading the Book of Shemos (Exodus). In Jewish mysticism these next six weeks are called "Shovavim," which is an acronym for the titles of the next six Torah portions, but also means to return. As we read about the beginnings of the Jewish people, how they went from the darkness, pain and suffering of Egyptian bondage to freedom and the receiving of the Torah, it is also an opportunity for us to take on new projects and new challenges with renewed vigor.
Our Sages tell us that Moshe's father Amram chose not to have more children because he didn't want to subject another child to the evil Egyptian decrees. But he was rebuked by Miriam, his daughter, telling him that he was worse than Pharaoh, who only decreed on the male children, whereas Amram is cutting off the source of life for all possible descendants.
I think Miriam's words carry with them an important message. Sometimes we can be guilty of "cutting off the life source" of a great idea or a new venture because of fear of how it will turn out. We don't fully engage ourselves in the projects that will really give us vitality because we are afraid of failure. Miriam's prophetic message to her father was that his job was to do his part to build the Jewish people, and if he didn't fulfill his part, surely God wouldn't bring salvation. This powerful message led to the conception of Moshe and the salvation of the Jewish people.
It is a great time to start fresh! As many people begin to work on their 2016 resolutions, let's put on our to-do list that, starting today, we will do a little more to share our divine spark with the world, to take some new chances, to move forward with our great ideas and to bring our light to the world.