The spiritual lessons of a secular new year

Rabbi Nadia Siritsky

The transition from one secular year to another is an interesting experience for Jews. Our new year is Rosh Hashanah, but for those of us living in North America, we also spend much of our time following the Gregorian calendar.
All around us, New Year’s resolutions are being made, and for those of us who participated in the High Holy Days, living in two different time zones can be an opportunity to reflect upon the commitments that we made during the Neilah service at the conclusion of Yom Kippur.
Psychologists say it is a natural human reaction to seek control in the face of the unknown. We all make plans and promises, hoping to be worthy of a year of blessing. Every ending causes us anxiety, as we are forced to confront our insecurity and mortality. Trusting the unknown is a spiritual skill that requires practice.
This is one of the reasons why so many of our religious rituals center around transitions, life cycle events, seasonal changes or even the transition from Shabbat to the start of a new week.
During moments of transition, it is helpful to harken back to those things that are positive and unchanging, and to affirm them publicly, so that we can remain centered in the endless source of blessing that is the true reality.
As we come to the end of 2018, the Jewish Hospital family looks to the future with great hope, while also recognizing that this past year has been a time of learning and transformation. We have improved our ability to care for patients, employing metrics that have improved in countless areas such as quality, safety, cleanliness and patient experience.
This year has been an interesting one for us. It has been a time of transition that has lasted longer than we’re used to. Selling the Louisville market of KentuckyOne Health is far more complex a transaction than selling a house, as it involves several hospitals, doctors’ offices, ambulatory medical centers and a relationship with the University of Louisville, which is going through its own transition, welcoming its new president.
This year has been an opportunity to practice our faith in the unknown while staying focused on those things that endure: our compassionate care for our patients, for one thing.
One of the achievements I am most proud of is our staff’s morale. It has increased dramatically, largely because of our ability to remain firmly anchored in hope.
One spiritual practice that I try to incorporate into every hospital meeting is a breathing exercise: Every breath we take can teach us how to trust. Oxygen is vital for living, but we can’t hold our breath to preserve oxygen. We must exhale the old breath to make space within us for the new, trusting that for every exhalation, a new inhalation will come.
The same is true for our hospital – and life in general. We need to let go of what we know to make space within for the new.
May 2019 bring us all blessings and reasons to continue to hope and stay positive in the face of the unknown.

(Rabbi Nadia Siritsky is vice president of mission for KentuckyOne Health.)

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