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At the End of the Year

12/26/2018 09:22:31 AM


Rabbi Ron Segal

Between this Shabbat and the next, the beginning of New Year 2019 will have come and gone. While we do not traditionally attribute to it the spiritual significance of our High Holy Days, January 1st of each calendar year does serve as another important touch point in our lives. Regardless of how - or if - one chooses to observe the ‘secular’ New Year, it does offer us another chance to stop, reflect, assess, plan, promise, and look ahead to another trip around the sun. To be honest, can we ever have too many of these opportunities?

With the start of the New Year only days away, perhaps the weekly pause that comes this particular Shabbat offers us an invitation to consider the year that is ending: its joyous and celebratory moments as well as its challenges and sadness; its personal and communal achievements as well as the disappointments and disillusionments we confronted. When and where did we find uplift, and when did feelings of isolation set in? When did we live our values and strive to make a difference, or when did self-interests prevail over the good of the community? Reflecting back upon the past twelve months, 2018 surely provides all of us with answers to these questions and more. In his poem “At the End of the Year,” John O’Donohue provides a beautiful frame to help further jog our memories and consider the past year in its fullness. In our reflections, may we each derive new perspective to guide us during the twelve months ahead.

At the End of the Year
by John O’Donohue

The particular mind of the ocean
Filling the coastline’s longing
With such brief harvest
Of elegant, vanishing waves
Is like the mind of time
Opening us shapes of days.

As this year draws to its end,
We give thanks for the gifts it brought
And how they became inlaid within
Where neither time nor tide can touch them.

The days when the veil lifted
And the soul could see delight;
When a quiver caressed the heart
In the sheer exuberance of being here.

Surprises that came awake
In forgotten corners of old fields
Where expectation seemed to have quenched.

The slow, brooding times
When all was awkward
And the wave in the mind
Pierced every sore with salt.

The darkened days that stopped
The confidence of the dawn.

Days when beloved faces shone brighter
With light from beyond themselves;
And from the granite of some secret sorrow
A stream of buried tears loosened.

We bless this year for all we learned,
For all we loved and lost
And for the quiet way it brought us 
Nearer to our invisible destination.

Tue, February 18 2020 23 Sh'vat 5780