Saturday, February 29, 2020 -
Print Edition


I AM a closet card-aholic. Its true. Some people eat when they get stressed. Others shop. Me? I head straight to the card aisle at Walgreens or CVS. If I’m really lucky and Hallmark has declared a holiday, like National Take Your Pet to Work Day, I can get lost for hours wondering if there is anyone I know, should know, or might know, in the future for whom this type of card would be perfect.

And then, of course, there are the regulars, the ones I stockpile knowing  that they will be used in the coming months: birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, get well, and my all-time favorite — fun and friendship cards.

I buy them and stash them in secret places — in the kitchen behind the bills, in my nightstand under the list of movies I intend to rent, next to my computer in a file marked “Dates to Remember.”

The problem is, I often forget where I put “that special card for my brother” until about two weeks after his birthday so that many of it ends up with the word “belated” scratched into the greeting.

It should come as no surprise then, that I got the inspiration for writing this piece while card-surfing at Trader Joe’s. The card itself was enough —  a picture of the horizon with a man in a boat sailing on the water. And in finely scripted letters under the picture was this question:

“When was the last time you did something for the first time?”

Wow. That really hit me. When was the last time I did something for the very first time? I couldn’t remember, although I did make a new sweet potato recipe for Thanksgiving, which I remember clearly because I had to go to the store three  times for ingredients I forgot.

I HAVE kept the card on my desk for the past few weeks; its message like a banner before me. As we begin a new secular year, I have decided to answer the question by making 2011 a year of “firsts.”

I don’t necessarily mean firsts that would make my mother dial 911, like bungee jumping or sky diving. Nor am I referring to things that cost a fortune or would require me to update my passport.

What I’m talking about is this: Making 2011 the year where each month I try something I’ve never tried before —  for the  very first time. Like eating a new food, wearing a new color or style, or reading a book I would never normally choose to read.

Not only is this an exciting way to embrace the new year, but it affords a very significant Jewish opportunity as well — that of being grateful for the blessing of having new things in our life.

The Jewish tradition has a wonderful way of honoring firsts with a blessing called the Shehecheyanu, which means “Who has sustained us” in Hebrew. The Shehecheyanu gives thanks to G-d “Who has kept us alive, preserved us and brought us to this special time.”

On its face, it gives us a way to thank G-d for new and unusual experiences, such as beginning a new job, moving into a new house or tasting the first fruits of the season.

On a deeper level, it directs our attention and awareness to our surroundings, so that we develop an ability to “see” and “feel” the spiritual significance of events in our life.

The Shehecheyanu is also recited at the start of Jewish holidays, like the first night of Chanukah and Passover, and to celebrate any long-awaited special occasion.

MAKING 2011 a year of firsts is a win-win deal. It gives us a chance to grow and learn by expanding our horizons while encouraging us to be grateful for having lived to see the moment.

Then, we can bless G-d and our lives in many ways, and the Shehecheyanu helps remind us of who we are, where we have come from and how wonderful it is to be a witness to the people and events around us.

Copyright © 2010 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Amy Lederman

IJN Columnist | Reflections

Leave a Reply