Jan. 1 came and went, and I forgot to talk about the new year. The new year brings resolutions — at least that is what we are supposed to do with the Jan. 1 New Year’s Day. Judaism asks much different things from us at the High Holy Days. So how do we make the secular new year Jewish? Well, resolutions are a pretty good idea if we are realistic. This story is a famous one — this version and the questions come from JCCA’s Mandel Center for Jewish Education.
Once there was a rabbi who was very learned and a good teacher. Rabbi Zusya performed many mitzvot and spent his life trying to be a good person. Rabbi Zusya knew that before he could enter heaven, he must have a conversation with G-d about his life. And he was very concerned. When he began thinking about his life he felt like he hadn’t done much. He imagined that G-d would ask him, “Why weren’t you more like Abraham? Why weren’t you more like Moses? Why weren’t you more like Solomon or David or maybe even Leah or Deborah?” Rabbi Zusya was so nervous and scared. Then G-d appeared before him and simply asked, “Why weren’t you more like Zusya?”
•Why do you think Zusya was worried about not being more like his ancestors? What was it about his ancestors that he wanted to emulate?
•Do you think it’s a good thing to want to follow in the footsteps of others?
•What do you think G-d meant by the question, “Why weren’t you more like Zusya?” Wasn’t he Zusya?
•What happens when you aren’t being yourself?
•How can we be our best selves? What might that take?
So the question as we begin the new year is: How we can be our best selves? What changes do you want to make and what can you do to make those changes? There are statistics out there that most people do not keep their new year’s resolutions. Why is that, and what can you do to be sure that you will strive to be the best YOU that you can be? It would be a lot easier to resolve to lose 20 pounds (and the J is a great place to do it!) but let’s commit ourselves to more this year!
Laura Seymour is director of camping services and Jewish life and learning at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas.