Posted by: jdiscover | December 31, 2010

Happy New Year or Shabbat Shalom?


Tonight we observe a quintessential yearly American, secular ritual, our celebration of the New Year. Some of us go to parties, others hang with friends (often the same group year after year), many of us count down the seconds and those of us blessed with a life partner certainly celebrate the New Year with a kiss.

And, tonight we observe a core weekly Jewish ritual, our celebration of Shabbat. We gather with friends and family, light candles, make Kiddush, enjoy a special meal and share with our loved ones a Shabbat Shalom kiss.

Many are of the opinion that when New Year’s Eve and Shabbat coincide, we need to choose. Will we skip Shabbat and observe the New Year in our regular fashion or will we ignore our New Year festivities in favor of our Shabbat rituals? What does Jewish tradition have to say about this dilemma?

You might think that Jewish tradition tells us that Shabbat trumps our celebration of the New Year, but I am not so sure. Throughout Jewish history our tradition has found ways to embrace elements of surrounding cultures while remaining loyal to Jewish practice. To name just a few examples: The seder incorporated essentials of the Greek symposium, church choral music influenced synagogue compositions and the dress of Polish nobility inspired Hasidic garb. There exist hundreds of instances, where Judaism assimilated outside culture into Jewish tradition just as there are countless influences of Judaism on the cultures of others.

So, tonight I will make Kiddush on some bubbly. Sitting around the Shabbat table I will reflect on the year past and make resolutions for 2011. I will count down the seconds and at the stroke of midnight I will enjoy 2 kisses – one for a Happy New Year, the other for Shabbat Shalom!

Shabbat Shalom and Happy New Year, Rabbi David Rose

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