How do you start a new year—especially one that begins with so much foreboding---so many problems both nationally and internationally. There are so many uncertainties we are confronting at the start of this year. When we think about all the areas of concern that so many of us have, there is a tendency to feel overwhelmed and helpless. What we forget is that in earlier ages, it was assumed that nothing could be done to alleviate the problems and that it is the human condition to accept and suffer. Early Christianity suggested and then taught that man and woman were born tainted by original sin and therefore must go through life seeking atonement while suffering. Islam taught fatalism—accept, because all is preordained and humans cannot change the will of God. Our ancestors at times used the expression “beshert”, “fated”, ”destined,” to put an end to questioning that for which there is no answer. Despite the aforesaid, the overwhelming thrust throughout our history has been man and woman working together with God can make a difference-can change the future.
Ancient prophets who saw their land run by despotic governments and indifference to the plight of the weak and helpless, spoke of a world of justice and caring. The message was powerful for all times and ran counter to all existing beliefs.
Yes, the problems of today are serious. But in moments of quiet reflection, it is so important that we not lose sight of the progress which humankind slowly makes when we do not give in to despair. The words of F.D.R are quite poignant these days: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” As a young adult, I learned the words of an ancient sage, Rabbi Tarfon, “you are not required to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to abstain from it.”
In the past decades we may have been guilty of unbridled optimism. At the start of this new year, that optimism has vanished. But let us not wallow in pessimism of despair. Let us remember that each of us has the power to change the world. We must not shy away from making our voices heard and standing up to power. We may not be able to solve all of our problems in the coming year but we will be supportive of each other in facing and changing the future.
May it be a year of good health and peace.