Resolution or Repentence?

A few years ago, after spending some significant time studying about the origins of the New Year's holiday, I decided to skip it and never celebrate it again.  The key deciding factor for me was the discovery of the connection between the Roman deity "Janus" to both the Roman month "January", being obviously named for him, and the first day of that month, which became the first day of the Roman year, being dedicated to him.  We can read a general confirmation of this information from Nova Roma, a website that advances the restoration of "classical Roman religion, culture, and virtues":
"Father Janus is often shown with two faces, one looking forward – the other backward. Ovid explains Janus' biform is because he is Guardian of every household's front doorway, with one face directed outward that 'views the people', and one face that looks inward towards the Lar Familiaris of the family's shrine. Ovid also draws the connection of doorkeeper with the dawning sun, calling Him 'the ianitor of the celestial court. (Who) observes the east and the west together' (Fasti I. 135-40). When the calendar was changed making January the beginning of the New Year, the month was named for Janus and January 1st was dedicated to him." (Nova Roma article on Ianus)
That was all it took for me to know what I had to do.  I had to make teshuva (repentance) by ceasing to observe this occasion, and while I thought it would be easy to give it up as it seems like such a trivial holiday, I was very wrong.  Much to my surprise, New Year's is the hardest holiday so far from which to withdraw myself completely. I severed emotional ties with Christmas, Easter, and other such things almost 25 years ago, so I don't feel any real connection with them anymore.  Though I certainly did have those feelings at the time, my conviction was seasoned by my youth, and I emotionally cut ties rather quickly and resolutely.  I am much older now and much more set in my ways, and dropping this observance took more effort than I imagined.

What I liked about this holiday is that it centered on new beginnings, throwing away the past and starting anew, resolving to change your life in positive ways. In other words, it was a holiday that was about teshuva in some sense, i.e. changing direction, improving your life, reflecting on past mistakes or problems and thinking about how to actively correct them.  I enjoyed the whole idea of waiting for midnight on New Year's Eve, and ringing in the new arrival of the New Year, that exact point when I could essentially throw away the past and begin acting on my resolutions, and of course, I liked doing so within the framework of merriment and mirth among friends and family.  Resolutions are in a sense a form of teshuva, a form of repenting of your past deeds and resolutely changing your ways.  So it was a bit ironic that I had to make teshuva by resolving to cease from observing this holiday in particular.

The New Year's celebration was something I kept in my back pocket. I've enjoyed observing it for many years under the excuse that this was in fact a secular holiday, one with no religious basis and thus one I did not have to avoid to keep my relationship with YHWH Elohim pure. Sometimes I'd have this nagging question in my mind as to where this celebration and its customs came from, particularly with my knowledge that this structure for a year came from a Roman solar calendar, and thus, was possibly embedded in Roman mythology and the worship of Roman deities. But I would skip that concern because I enjoyed it so much and I truly felt my heart wasn't in the wrong place. I evaded any hint of its true origins because I think in the back of my mind I knew this might spell the end of another link I had with the world at large.  In taking this tact, I was letting that desire for enjoyment override those reservations when they would arise.  This is, of course, precisely what a great many Christians do around Christmas and Easter, and against which I've lectured many among them over the years. In other words, I was being a hypocrite.

The first time I purposefully avoided New Year's, the decision had only come a day or so before, and thus I wasn't emotionally prepared for what cutting lose from that tradition would mean for me personally, I was heavily tempted all day to go to a party I had an open invitation to attend. It helped that I had so much work to do that day that I couldn't really justify it, but in the past I would have thrown the work to the wind and went out for some champagne with friends. It was immediately apparent to me how much I would miss the camaraderie of doing that. Far more than just celebrating resolutions, I wanted to be among friends at this time that the world considers to be an important annual event.  The desire, basically a worldly desire to join the party specifically at this significant time of the year, gnawed at me the whole evening.

I am extremely grateful to my Elohim that I live in a country, culture, and age in which religious liberty is so thoroughly ingrained that I don't have an expectation of having to resist at the cost of my own liberty or even my own blood, as so many have had to do in the past. Nor have I had the worst treatment possible from family and friends who didn't understand my decisions all those years ago. Many believers are not so fortunate in their family situations. There are Jews who were raised in strict Orthodox families who, having come to the knowledge of Yeshua HaMashiyach, had parents, brothers, sisters, and other family "sit shiva" for them, essentially treating these family members as if they were dead to them. And of course, it happens on the Christian side of things as well.  I knew of one former Christian who was disowned by family after coming to the knowledge of his obligation to observe the Mitzvot (Commandments) of the Torah and making teshuva to that effect.  My family, which has mostly Christian roots, might have given me a hard time many years ago over my religious decisions, but they were motivated by pain more than anger.  Certainly, they never gave me a degree of penalty that would include permanent estrangement, and now they're so used to the idea, it only really gives them pain during holidays when they are reminded of me by my absence at their gatherings.

I am grateful that this level of ostracism never happened to me. But that doesn't mean that I haven't had issues with loneliness and acceptance at times. I've had to give up a lot of things to keep myself qodesh ("set apart") to a Qodesh Elohim, and sometimes it's not just the celebrations and customs themselves, but the effect it has on my relationships with family and friends. You can feel very much like a constant outsider at these times of the year. Because those who are the most like-minded to my way of believing, my spiritual brothers, live such long distances away, I only really see them in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) for the Chagim (Biblical Festivals). I think that's why it was hard to let go of this additional holiday celebration of the Roman New Year.  It's a time of year I could share with people who don't share my belief system.

At times like these, I try to remember what Rav Shaul (Paul) said about these things of which we must let go to continue in a covenant relationship with YHWH Elohim and His Mashiach:
"But these things which had been my mastery, I have accounted a detriment because of the Mashiach. And now also I account them all a detriment, because of the superiority of the knowledge of Yeshua the Mashiach, my Master; for the sake of whom I have parted with all things, and have accounted them as dung that I might gain the Mashiach." (Philippians 3:7-8)
Giving up worldly things like this one will certainly be worth it in the end.  Whatever Elohim has planned in HaOlam Haba (the world to come) for those of us who have willingly entered into a covenant with Him and remained faithful is far greater than anything we can experience in the here and now, no matter how wonderful or personally meaningful we might consider these worldly ornaments to be.

I firmly believe everyone who wants a relationship with the only true Elohim must eschew holidays such as this one, holidays that originate not in the rich soil of YHWH, but in the astroturf of man-made deities.  If we need any resolution at this time of the year, it's to avoid the New Year's holiday, and all other holidays and worldly ornaments which serve to prevent the fullness of our relationship with Him.  We all need to make teshuva and commit ourselves to keeping the Torah of Mosheh and the Testimony of Yeshua HaMashiach, particularly to emphasize in our lives that which is the subject of their mutual emphasis, the greatest Mitzvah (commandment) of the Torah, the Shema:
"Hear, O Yisra’el: YHWH our Elohim, YHWH is One! And you shall love YHWH your Elohim with all your heart, and with all your being, and with all your might. And these Words which I am commanding you today shall be in your heart, and you shall impress them upon your children, and shall speak of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up, and shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates... Do not go after other elohim ('gods'), the elohim of the peoples, who are all around you." (Debarim / Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 14)
Notice how thorough these words are.  We're being told that we must resolve ourselves to these words every day in every way, reminding ourselves throughout the day of their importance, and letting them guide our thoughts and our deeds unreservedly.  We're being told that we must make continual teshuva to the One True Elohim, YHWH.  We're being told to evict foreign deities like Janus from our front doorway, and instead inscribe these words on every doorway and gate, especially the doorway to our hearts and minds.  We don't need a man-made holiday to remind us of our resolve to YHWH Elohim, particularly one that resulted from the worship of a man-made deity.  Using that kind of holiday to celebrate new beginnings and to make teshuva in our lives could only serve to weaken the sincerity and sheer heart behind our resolve, and certainly would serve to disconnect the one true Elohim from those efforts.  Our commitment to Him has to be an all-day and every-day resolution for us, an all-day and every-day making of teshuva to put Him first in everything, and so that we don't fall into the trap of doing these things reluctantly, it must be an all-day, every-day celebration.

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