Thank God for 2021

New Year’s Eve 2022, as it would happen, would land on a Friday night, an evening in my house when we refrain from the use of screens in observance of Shabbat. When my daughter realized this, she was sad that she would not get to watch the Times Square ball drop. Would I give-in and make an exception? It felt so tempting and easy. Instead, I reassured her that I would do something special. I had no idea what that meant. I would have to figure it out later.

I decided that we would get some kosher Chinese, some sparkling grape juice which we would use to say the Shabbat blessings, some fun party decorations and hopefully a project that we would work on together as a family. We would either have a dress-up party or a pajama party and call it a night. Maybe my kids would outlast me.

Shortly thereafter, my friend and colleague posted: “How to Bring the Spirit of Shabbat Into Your New Year’s Eve Celebration” and I didn’t have to read far to use one of her tips to plan a photo review of our year. I would definitely print out some pictures and take a 2021 trip down memory lane. Thank you so much for this suggestion.

It was very difficult for me to narrow down my favorite photos. I confess; I printed about 150 of them.

Simultaneously, one of my friends on social media posted a question about what kind of year 2021 will be known for. As suspected, the comments mentioned politics, Covid and the like. But the frame of mind in which I was in, after having a difficult time narrowing down my favorite moments to 150 (!!!), had absolutely nothing to do with the January 6th insurrection or vaccination status. Instead I posted, after reviewing all of these photos, that I could not allow the tragedies of this past year to put a dampener on the joy that’s in my heart after the glorious year we’ve had together.

And so, in between courses of cocktail weenies and egg drop soup, we paused, together, to remember all of our fond memories over the past year. I asked each child to come up with their top 5 moments – which quickly turned to top 10 and eventually top 20. They couldn’t even narrow them down! Many of the moments were shared favorites. Some related to big trips, others were more ordinary moments, like playing in the snow or baking together. My God, let this appreciation last forever, I thought.

And then, after the most Ashkenazi dessert ever, I decided to add a twist to the photo exercise. I posted 12 pieces of cardstock on the wall, each with one name of a month of the year. The last part of this family game was to guess the months in which the moments happened and tape them onto the corresponding poster board.

I cannot tell you how I was in heaven watching this happen.

Here we are, in the middle of a pandemic – with the omicron surge hitting nearly every household around us – more than likely soon to hit us – and I was just so cocooned in a world of blessings and joy. My God, let this moment never end.

But it didn’t stop there. We sat back and took stock of this amazing year. We would ask ourselves:

“Which month was the busiest?”

“Which moments were the most precious?”

“When did we try something new?”

“When did we do a mitzvah?”

“Was there a moment when we were brave?”

And so soon, this photo wall became an opportunity to not just reminisce about the moments of our year, but the type of people we had become because of this year. We emerged more developed, more compassionate, holier beings, grateful, so deeply grateful, for how it had changed our lives.

I’m so glad that New Year’s Eve landed on Shabbat. It forced me to try something new, to use my creative brain to celebrate all that had transpired, to inspire my kids to look inward. And isn’t one theme of this year all about resilience, pivoting and trying new things outside of our comfort zones? Compared to the Times Square ball drop, this is just…everything. Maybe, just maybe, we’ve created a new annual ritual in our home, too.

I know that this year has been difficult for so many. I understand; trust me. Personally, though, I can honestly say that 2021 may very well have been the best year of my life. Not because of what has been happening around me, but because for the first time in my life I’ve embodied what it means – despite the chaos – to be joyful. And when it’s a pure state of joy, nothing, nobody – not even God – can take that away from me.

3 thoughts on “Thank God for 2021

  1. Thanks Rabbi, this was a great idea i bet before you knew it ot was 2022. I did somthing similar when my Dad turned 80. I told familyy to send pictures. It now hangs in my house with lots of good memories. The kids were not adults yet and every moŕning before school they would add a picture are two. Great fun
    Happy New Years to you and family and to all at GRJC😍


  2. What an amazing story of creativity and thankfulness! Your daughters do not know how fortunate they are to have you as their mother.


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