Rabbi Lief’s Message: January 2017

Every year at the High Holy Days, we reflect on our past and envision our future, always hoping and planning to do better than the year before. So, too, in January, hope springs eternal that maybe this will be the year when we lose that weight, reconnect with long-lost friends, and celebrate our favorite teams winning championships. For our Ragin’ Cajuns and LSU Tigers, make that next January, in 2018, at the earliest. For all of our annual hoopla of hopefulness, how often do we reach the goals we set? How often do we set goals that are actually within our reach?

Hope is important, as it lifts our spirits at this colder time of the year. We look forward to better weather, better health, and a better life, but how often do we help ourselves to realize those dreams, as opposed to setting ourselves up for a fall? Self-improvement is not a quick fix, and just as we didn’t become who we are today without a lifetime of practice, so, too, we can’t expect to change overnight. That’s not to say that we can’t do some planning to get us on the road toward a brighter tomorrow.

Take a moment and think of one thing you’d like to work on in the year ahead. Health? Relationships? Finances? Spirituality? It is tempting to imagine what life would be like, were any one of these areas to reach our ideal image of success, but if we can only picture the end, we run the risk of disillusionment that will surely come without instant gratification. Instead, think again of that one thing, but then pick one smaller aspect of that larger goal, something well within your reach. Don’t imagine you’ll drop fifty pounds overnight; work on losing five pounds and see where things go from there. At our Tu B’Shevat seder upcoming, we’ll look ahead toward spring and nature’s rebirth. No one person can plant a whole forest in a day; but call our friends at the Jewish National Fund and you can plant at least one tree. Similarly, don’t promise yourself that you’ll be at the synagogue you love every week from now on; instead, pick a service, a class, or a program that looks great from the long list of opportunities this month and make a plan to attend. Then, pick another after that. Engage and you will find Jewish life to be engaging. Come regularly, and you’ll feel like a regular. Commit to lifelong Jewish learning and you’ll find yourself to be a more learned Jew.

My hope and prayer for this New Year, is for each and every member of our Jewish community to find the inspiration and uplift to make his or her hopes and dreams become reality. To get there, I hope we’ll each make a plan, take small steps, find them worthwhile, and stick with our pursuit of happiness for the long run. Becca, Leah, Ellie, and I thank you all so much for the love and support we’ve received this past year from all of you, and we wish you and your families a very Happy and Healthy New Year ahead.