By Larry Gordon

As of Tuesday, that number after the “20” at the top of your checks is now 13, as in “2013.” It seems that after all these years this is what our secular New Year observance has come–or counted down–to. Essentially a numbers game and not much more.

There are those numbers on top of our checks and of course there is the matter of the fiscal cliff off of which we are still not sure whether we’ll be jumping of our own volition or having someone push us. And then there is the all-important debt ceiling, which will have to be adjusted yet again to borrow more money from China so that the USA can spend more.

The New Years–the secular one and the Jewish one–are simply startling in their contrasts. The Jewish New Year and the emotional as well as physical preparations that lead up to it involve a considerable amount of trembling. New Year’s Eve, in New York and elsewhere, also involves a considerable amount of trembling, considering that over a million people arrive in freezing temperatures in Times Square to watch an assemblage of bulbs descend some 130 feet as a commercial promotion for a lighting company.

As well as the similarities, there are marked differences between the meaning and symbolism of the two New Year celebrations. As time moves on, those contrasts become more pronounced. It is no longer just an interpretation of when any said year should end or begin. As time progresses and I suppose we all intellectually mature somewhat, we are struck with the realization of not just how different the two are but how opposite and even contradictory to one another they really may be.

What really is January 1, and why was this date selected as the start of the New Year? Well, the short, simple answer is that with Christmas being the historical birth date of the Christian savior who was born to Jews in or near Jerusalem, the first of January would be eight days later, or the day of the Jewish male’s circumcision or b’ris milah. So the international secular New Year is all about the day that that Jewish baby boy had his b’ris in ancient Israel. What took place after that is a rather long and complicated story.

As for the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, it is not, as conventional wisdom says, the day on which G‑d created the world that we live in. Actually, the Jewish New Year is the day on which Adam and Eve were created in the Garden of Eden, on the sixth day of creation. So you see, the New Year celebrations are centered on events related to humankind and not necessarily about creation of the cosmos.

In other words, it looks like regardless of what philosophy or outlook you subscribe to, at the end of the day it is all up to us and how we rise to the occasion–or do the exact opposite. And as long as we are discussing New Year-related things, it suddenly becomes no wonder that so many things are wanting and in stressful shape.

Take this fiscal cliff business that we had hoped would end on January 1 one way or the other; it looks like we are going to be dealing with it and its fallout for a while going forward. I have to say that I really did not see this as the nail-biter that the media tried to present it as. I mean, why couldn’t those who made the tax increase law in the first place just pass another piece of legislation that says that the tax increases would be delayed another few months so that the negotiators can continue to work on the matter? Was there a law on the books against doing that?

The unfortunate reality here is that this is not really about law, or the economy, or spending excessively, or being frugal. It is firstly and lastly about ideology. The president has repeated literally hundreds of times that the solution to what ails the American economy is to increase taxes on what Mr. Obama refers to as “millionaires and billionaires.” In Obamaspeak, that means any family that earns $250,000 or more per year.

As we go to press there is an agreement between Republican leaders in the House and the president that says that tax increases will begin to kick in on those with household incomes of $450,000 or more per year. To Obama Democrats, those people would be trillionaires.

The point is that this is what January 1 and the New Year now amount to–whether we are being forced to take the plunge over the fiscal cliff or not. Sure, it is shameful that those elected to go to Washington and represent us are unable to work together and fashion a compromise formula that features good old give-and-take. But more than anything, and even though he won reelection a few weeks ago, this is a colossal failure for Barack Obama. What it plainly says to America and to the world that is watching is that Mr. Obama does not have the ability to lead.

Sadly, he has shown that in his reaction to the tragic murders just two short weeks ago in Connecticut. Mr. Obama, for ideological reasons, refuses to acknowledge that there are other causes, aside from the proliferation of guns in this country, that contribute to these senseless massacres. Sure, guns in the hands of the wrong people are a terrible plague that way too often has disastrous results. The president has said that he intends to introduce and sign a bill this year that outlaws an assortment of automatic weapons and creates serious impediments to those guns’ falling into wrong and dangerous hands.

But that could take most of the coming year. In the aftermath of Fort Hood, Texas; Aurora, Colorado; and now Newtown, Connecticut, it is obvious that something needs to be done. The suggestion by the National Rifle Association president, Wayne LaPierre, sounds a little off course at first, but upon closer analysis it does not seem all that crazy.

All Lapierre was saying is that if there had been an armed guard at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, he may have been able to prevent the massacre. The victims were both helpless and defenseless. Of course that would mean adding more guns to the national mix. But the new guns would be in the hands of the good guys. The bad guys bent on killing will always find a way to get their hands on guns no matter what new laws are written or passed; that is in part what makes them so bad.

In Israel, in the immediate aftermath of the bombings at cafés, restaurants, and coffee shops, the government had no choice but to post armed guards at the entrances to most of these shops. It was unacceptable to allow the people to be so vulnerable, and something immediate needed to be done.

At its height, 90,000 people were employed in security positions at these establishments across the country. The additional jobs were an extra added attraction. The main focus was to protect the people.

There are an estimated 100,000 schools in the U.S. The Wall Street Journal reported the other day that one third of the schools already have armed security personnel on staff or under contract. All LaPierre of the NRA was saying is that the children in these schools need to be protected now, today, not sometime within the year.

Once again, for ideological reasons, Mr. Obama is opposed to the plan of placing armed security in schools. The NRA and their rank and file are people usually identified as standing more to the right, and they most likely did not vote to reelect Mr. Obama. You can rest assured that there are armed guards where the president’s daughters attend school in Washington. No one there wants to be a sitting duck, so to speak.

And that’s why we are tottering on this now famous fiscal cliff–because of political obduracy and lack of vision. All this incessant talk of scaling financial mountains probably ruined this holiday season for many. It was that and the fact that people did not spend what they were supposed to in the stores during the shopping frenzy leading up to the observances. After all is said and done, not such a happy new year. v

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