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 This season of the year always signals the start of a new beginning. In its most limited sense, this new beginning is in terms of the Jewish calendar year. However, all of us sense that the new beginning is much more than just purchasing a new calendar. We desperately seek a truly fresh start, an opportunity to discard past errors and their consequences and to move from the sometimes darkness of our lives into the valley of sunshine. Yet, the problem that challenges all new beginnings is the fact that all of the old problems and difficulties still exist and are often dragged forward.

Illness, discords, enmities, financial problems and social pressures – all of which existed on the eve of the New Year – are now part of the fabric of the New Year itself. It is very difficult to aspire and achieve any sort of meaningful new beginning when all of the old burdens of life are still present with us.
Nevertheless, the Torah encourages and in fact even demands of us that we see this season of the year as being a fresh start in our lives and not nearly as the time that marks the advent of a new date on our calendar. In fact, the whole meaning of teshuva – repentanceand renewal – is based on our ability to adjust to changing realities and differing circumstances, to learn from our past but to somehow, at the same time, to discard that past and deal with a new present that will lead to a different future.
Since it is impossible to completely erase our past experiences from our present thoughts and behavior, achieving a new beginning is a very complicated and delicate matter. On one hand, we should never forget the mistakes that we have made in the past so that we do not repeat them once again. Memories should not be a burden upon us but should be utilized in order to proceed to a better life and a more positive attitude.
This new beginning stems from a strong understanding and recognition of what has gone before. A new beginning is not really our initial beginning, which suggests inexperience and trial and error. Rather, it is a new approach on how to deal with old problems, difficult emotions and harsh realities, many of them carried over from the baggage of the previous years of our lives.
We are all aware that when we pack our suitcases for a trip, somehow we always take along things that are unnecessary and items that will never be used on the trip. Yet, over-packing is part of human nature.
One aspect of the genius of recognizing that we have to make a new beginning for ourselves on a very regular basis is not to ‘over-pack’ from the past for our current journey into the future. A new beginning never starts from scratch, but much of the past should be scratched in order for the new beginning to have vitality and success.
The famous maxim is that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first small step. Many a new beginning has been ruined and compromised by attempting to do too much too soon. Fasting rarely leads to successful dieting and weight loss. The Torah always emphasizes consistency over radical change.
 The success of a new beginning always depends on the consistency of the methods used to implement it. We always search for emotional and spiritual highs and scorn the plodding, every day good deeds and observances. People certainly want to be inspired in their pursuit of a new beginning, however inspiration many times wanes and we are left feeling empty and disoriented.
Part of creating a successful new beginning is the idea of regularity, repetition and realism in identifying and achieving our spiritual goals. Our rabbis taught us that a person who grabs too much grabs nothing. This lesson is essential to all human endeavors. Breakthroughs in medicine and pharmacology are based on years of slow research and painstaking experimentation. There always must be a bit of serendipity present in the success of any new beginning. But without the hard work and the tedium of practice and effort, no new beginning will ever achieve its noble goal. In this season of fresh starts, I fervently hope that all of us will achieve our objectives.
Shabbat shalom
An easy fast and a wonderful holiday.
Berel Wein 

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