(Courtesy: Rabbi Amy Eilberg)

Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev brings us a remarkable teaching about newness and birth, as he reflects on the verse, “Hashiveynu HaShem eylecha venashuva; hadesh yameynu kekedem” — “Return us, O God, to You, and we will return; renew our days as of old” (Eicha 5:21). He wonders about the meaning of “kekedem ” — renew our days, as of when? Before we sinned? Before we were born? Before we left Eden? To what primordial time are we asking to return?

Levi Yitzhak asks us to recognize that every day we are a new creation. The Psalmist says, “Kol haneshama tehallel Yah” — “Every living thing praises God” (Psalms 150:6). And the Midrash makes a tiny twist, yielding “Kol haneshima”– “With every breath one praises God.” In fact, says the Rebbe, God breathes new life into us at each moment. Were it not for the loving vitality of the Divine, we would not survive from moment to moment. Each breath, each moment of life, is a new blessing, a new creation. And if we consider this, then we see that each moment is a new opportunity, a new beginning, in fact, a new lifetime.

Thinking in this way, we recognize that our sins and mistakes, our harmful patterns and simmering resentments of the past, belong to another lifetime. If we choose to greet the new moment as a new creation, God will do the same, and lead us into a new life. Entering each moment in this way, we may see clearly what is ours to do: to deepen love, to heal a soul, to save a life, to make a difference, to change the world.

According to Levi Yitzhak, we need only turn our hearts in this direction, and our tshuvah (repentance), will be effective. Our life already will have been transformed.

And so our prayer, “Renew our days — kekedem ” means not “as of old.” We are asking God to help us make each day new, each day a new beginning, a new creation. May the new year be filled with new moments in which we may serve and love and grow, with full heart and soul and mind.