By Rabbi Rick Sherwin
The first month of the secular year, January, takes its name from the Roman god of beginnings and endings.
Always at the doorway, Janus (or Ianus) had two faces, one looking back and one looking forward. The message of New Year’s Day echoes the theme of Rosh ha-Shana when we look back on the past year and simultaneously look ahead with a better idea of the path to take through the New Year.
For the most part, we look back on 2020 and recite a prayer of thanksgiving that we made it through the 365th day.
We anticipate the end of the pandemic and the return to the “normal” world, knowing that it will be different than what it was before the pandemic began. We look forward to 2021, with the optimism that – with vaccination – we can face the year with healing, health, and hope.
As we receive our long-awaited COVID-19 injection, we should keep in mind Rabbi Naomi Levy’s prayer:
“I give thanks
To all the scientists who toiled day and night
So that I might receive this tiny vaccination
That will protect me and all souls around this world.
With the pandemic still raging
I am blessed to do my part to defeat it.
Let this be the beginning of a new day,
A new time of hope, of joy, of freedom
And most of all, of health.”