Clergy’s Corner

Read Rabbi Barras’ Monthly Reflections — “Rav Bar Oz

In this space each month, we feature the writings of one of the members of our Beth Am Clergy. This month we invite Rabbi Judith Kempler to share some thoughts with you. You may contact her at with any comments.

How are you doing with your resolutions? SHOTS/KEMPLER_judith.gif

As you read this article, we are knee deep in “winter” in Miami. The weather slightly below 80 degrees, the holidays and vacations behind us and back into our normal routines of work, school, commitments, activities and plans. But, as I write this article, it is barely the New Year of 2017. We have just endured a tumultuous two years leading up to the presidential election, moved through a slew of national and religious holidays, Thanksgiving, Chanukah and New Year’s.

This year the message of our winter holidays could not be more needed. As we as a nation and a people anticipate what will be for us in the years to come, we were all in need of celebration, to be reminded of joy and the possibility of greater peace. We savor the distraction from our daily lives, a chance to reconnect with family and friends, lots of eating and many late (but fun-filled) nights. Most importantly, the New Year brings a chance to reflect on the year that has passed and to make a new year’s resolution for the year to come.

Many of us made resolutions during Rosh HaShanah: I promise to be more patient, to eat healthier or to spend more time with family to name a few old standbys. But, it has been over four months since the start of the Jewish New Year. Now, in early February, we sit close to the halfway point of our Jewish calendar. And as we dive into more (secular) New Year’s resolutions, let us pause and check in with our Jewish New Year’s promises.

What did you promise to yourself for 5777? And, how are you doing? Can you rate your efforts on a scale of 1–10 (1 being…I forgot about it, and 10 being I’ve mastered it and I’m onto the next self-improvement task!)? Have you kept up your enthusiasm or been bogged down by frustration? What is one practical next step that you can take to get back on the path that you intended to walk this year?

In the month of February, our Jewish calendar lands us in the months of Shevat and Adar. The month of Shevat (which began on January 28th) is focused on renewal and rebirth. It reaches its crescendo on the 15th of the month when we celebrate the holiday of Tu Bi’Shvat. This day, referred to as the “New Year of the Trees,” is a celebration of restoration, rejuvenation and rebirth in nature. This theme of renewal is embedded in our people, as we celebrate the beauty and mystery of the natural world.

Shevat also is an important reminder of how we (our actions, intentions and resolutions) play a role in shaping the universe. With our resolutions, we commit to improve ourselves in some way. And when we do this, we bring that energy of progress, of hope and growth into our world. So, even if you’ve lost your way with your New Year’s resolutions, the month of Shevat is a reminder that our personal work contributes to the growth and beauty of our world.

May you use this month of Shevat to recommit to your resolutions and ready ourselves for the increase of joy and celebration in the month of Adar (February 26th).

Rabbi Judith Kempler

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