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First of all may I, on behalf of my wife and myself, and the children, wish everyone a k'sivah v'chasimah tovah – may you and your loved ones be inscribed in the Book of Life for a year of happiness, good health, prosperity and only simchas.

The Talmud in the tractate Megillah asks why the "tochacha", the section of the sedrah of Ki Savo, which details a series of terrible curses, is always read just before Rosh Hashanah.  The Talmud answers that it is to symbolise the idea that the year should end along with its curses, and the new year should commence with its blessings.

So out with the old and in with the new.  Just as people make New Year resolutions on 1st January l'havdil, the High Holy Days inspire us to make all kinds of resolutions to improve on last year and to grow more this year.  Yet just as people usually end up breaking their Jan 1st resolutions before the year ends, how many of our sincere intentions actually last through to the following Rosh Hashanah?

I follow a Chassidic custom of making good resolutions on one's birthday for the coming year ahead.  I once made the mistake of announcing mine publicly on my actual birthday.  The result?  A few weeks later I was in shul, having forgotten my resolution to say all of the davening form inside the siddur, when a good friend approached me, tutted and said "remember your resolution?"  Maybe telling others your plans isn't such a bad idea if you want to make sure you actually keep them!

The Torah tells us that the land of Israel is a land which G-d watches over "mireishis hashanah… ad acharis shanah" – from the start of the year – until the end of a year.  "Hashanah" means "The Year"– like Rosh Hashanah.  Why "acharis shanah" which is far less definite, meaning simply "a year"?  Because we start out saying this year will be "Hashanah" – the year, when we make all the changes and improvements.  This year will be the one.  Then as time goes by it just becomes "shanah" another year gone by, possibly even wasted.

So let us all endeavour to make this year "The Year" to carry out all of our good resolutions until next Rosh Hashanah and to make the necessary adjustments to fulfil our resolutions and maybe to even grow a little.  In doing so may we say goodbye to last year's troubles and may all of us be inscribed in the Book of Life for a year of happiness, good health and blessings.

Rabbi M Wollenberg