I spent much of motzei shabbes researching different perspectives on the secular new year, mostly using resources provided by the talmid chochom R’ Dovid Markel. Despite being somewhat ‘frum’ this time last year, I don’t remember thinking that much of celebrating or not celebrating the secular new year- it was a ‘given’ that I’d be marking it in the usual way, and watching the fireworks. But this year, I wanted to do a little research into the different Jewish viewpoints and minhagim, particular those of Chabad Lubavitch. What I found out was both fascinating and inspiring.
The Rebbe of Apta, citing Tehillim 87:6, “The Lord counts in the script of the nations”, declared that one should spend the day davening. He reasoned that G-d, upon seeing the frivolous celebrations of the non Jews, would pardon us for our sins which he had not forgiven at Rosh Hashanah! While this approach is logical, it conflicts with a tale of the Rebbe zt”l, who cited the same verse to provide a different explanation (story courtesy of Neirot);
“The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s secretary, Rabbi Nissan Mindel, during the 70’s would often find himself in the Rebbe’s office.
Once, he was in the office during the eve of the secular New Year. When twelve o’clock arrived, the Rebbe looked at his watch and said in English “Happy New Year.”
When Rabbi Mindel looked shocked at the Rebbe, the Rebbe responded: “It is an explicit verse (Tehillim 87:6): “The Lord counts in the script of the nations.”
This appears to remind us that the Rebbe’s viewpoint was different. He did not see any specific harm in the secular new year, nor in the greeting “happy new year”, so long as we did not attempt to place the holiday on the same level as any of the Jewish holidays. With this in mind, I’d like to wish everyone a happy new year. May 2017 be filled with only good things. Just think twice about your intentions before partaking in any celebrations!