By Emanuel Elstein
Former Shaliach in Washington (2003-4) and Memphis (2010-12)
Currently Director of Operations, Torah MiTzion

Click HERE for the PDF version
At the end of Moshe’s monumental speech, just before he passes on the mantle of leadership to his disciple, Yehoshua. Moshe chooses to end his speech with a reminder of the covenant between G-d and the people of Israel; A pact that was made with Abraham and continues till this day.
The covenant has two aspects: אם כבנים אם כעבדים

On one hand, we are slaves, servant of the King of Kings. We fulfill His commandments because it His will. We are rewarded and punished based on our performance and adherence to His mitzvot.

On the other hand we are sons of Hashem, בנים אתם לה’ א-לוקיכם.
A relationship between a parent and a child is totally different than that a master and slave. As sons we (hopefully) do G-d’s will because we want to, because we love our Father in Heaven. It is a connection that will never be severed. The love and caring never goes away, no matter how many time we argue or fight. Sometime our child has to leave the house, to get away and feel independent. Sometimes we even kick him out. But the connection remains. We can get very angry, and sometimes children need to be punished, but in the end – the love, the connection, remains.
So too our relationship with our Father in the Heavens continues. Even if we sin, even if we anger him, He’s still our father. We can be punished, even exiled. But we can never totally disconnect.

And yet, like our relationship with a child, things change over time. Every year is a new year, a new opportunity to strengthen and deepen our relationship.
The Torah says about Eretz Yisrael:
ארץ אשר עיני ה’ אלהיך בה מרשית השנה ועד אחרית שנה
“The eyes of Hashem, your G-d, are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to year’s end”

The Tanya (Igerret 14) asks – If it’s from the beginning of the year till the end of the year – why not just say ‘always’, or ‘all the time’?
He answers that Hashem is constantly shining his divine goodness down upon us; there is constant hashgacha, divine providence. However, during different times of the year there are different Hearot, different aspects of Hashem’s attributes that are closer to us. There are different filters and prisms that ‘color’ Hashem’s light in a different hue. Each holiday has a unique spiritual meaning to it, as we reconstruct and relive its historical and spiritual significance.
But beyond that, not just every holiday – every year has its own light, its own special and unique significance. The spiritual opportunities of this year are not the same as last year’s. “From the beginning of the year till its end” there is a special light, a unique spirituality in the air that is different from the previous and the following year.
This is true not only regarding Eretz Yisrael and Am Yisrael as a collective, but also on the personal level of every Jew and his relationship with his Father in Heaven.

Every year has its own special light, every year is a once in a lifetime opportunity to do or accomplish something that couldn’t be done last year and won’t be possible next year either.

So as we start this New Year, 5781 years after the creation, we have to ask ourselves: What opportunities does G-d have in store for me this year? How can I grow some more? How is this year going to be different from last year?
Unfortunately, the answers for such fundamental and inherently personal question are not always clear, and it is not easy to change. We need to plan in advance. Opportunity knocks on our door every year, but we need to open it.

If at work we have a major, critical, yearlong project to manage, we’ll have countless meeting and brainstorming sessions. We’ll prepare, make contingency plans in advance and look for opportunities and potential pitfalls…
So too for our next year of life, the most important project we’ll ever deal with, we have to plan and prepare in advance. We must set attainable goals, note progress and double check to see that we’re meeting our own standards.
Now is the time to make sure that we make the most of the upcoming year, and the unique opportunities Hashem sends us.