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a different new year

So tomorrow (Friday) and Sunday are Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year.

For many, this is a day to sit through long services, get dressed up and eat hearty meals.  But the real value to me, is in taking stock, celebrating what we have and setting goals, both religious and in life overall for the coming year.

The past year has been a tough one for all of us.  If we didn't lose a job, a close friend or family member did.  One of my good friends lost his wife, and another close friend and mother of four was diagnosed with MS.  While money is tight, nearly every non-profit I have ever supported fell on hard times.  For the first time in my life, I have had to structure my ma'aser (tithes to charities) in installments to accommodate the many needs of the institutions close to me and my family.

On the other hand, my sister celebrated her Bat Mitzvah and my son turned two.  My role at Digitas grew exponentially, my wife passed her nursing exams and got a great job.  It's been a year of ups and downs.

Looking back at one year ago today, we are in a far better place.  Last year, the financial scare of the crash of Lehman Brothers (one year ago to the day on the Jewish calendar) powered an urgency in our prayers.  The sky was falling.  I think we can agree that the crash wasn't quite as harsh as we had feared.

Jewish belief states that on Rosh Hashannah (New Years) our fate is written, and one week later on Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) our fate is sealed.  This isn't to say that we can't change who we are and thereby change our fate throughout the year, but our trajectory is set over the next week.  For the past few years I was privileged participate in prayers led by my friend who just lost his wife 6 months ago.  I will never forget hearing him break down in tears year after year as he sang the words "who for life and who for death" while his wife battled cancer.  This year she sits in heaven, praying for her three year old daughter and husband.

There is a portion in the prayers where it says "who (will be chosen) for life and who for death, who for health and who for sickness, who for wealth and who for poor fortune, who for peace of spirit and who for turmoil..."  This gets me every time.  We have had a tough year.  The focus of my prayers for this year is to be granted the vision to focus on the positive and to help others focus on the positive in their lives. 

Life isn't always easy.  We can't change the financial climate or cure cancer by snapping our fingers.  The real test isn't how well we succeed in amassing wealth, but the perspective we bring to our reality.

Shannah Tovah.