Rabbi’s New Year Message
2023 draws to an end, and 2024 opens up a door to …. maybe something different? I’m an optimist by nature but by pretty much any measure, our world is in turmoil as this year ends. For me, it’s about the human catastrophes unfolding in the Middle East involving our beloved Jewish homeland that will forever change the landscape and the lives of all who live in that region. And the ripples are spilling beyond those borders, unchecked. Our own worlds are now being rocked, as the dark voices of hatred and racism and anti-Semitism are baying loudly, with strong hints that the dark days of fascism are again too close at hand with far too many people prepared to support those that lead those ugly political movements. We face very real prospects of living here, in North America, under regimes that are mean and selfish, that have no problems with “othering” those who disagree with their politics or “facts” or faith. And that includes me and you and you and you.
As a new year approaches, I draw solace from how and why Chanukah became a holiday about light pushing into darkness, and how much important that traditional message is this year. Our 2,000-year history in the diaspora is filled with incredibly long periods of darkness and surprisingly few periods where we lived in times of peace and acceptance by our neighbours, no matter where we have lived.
But that is also why, so close to the longest night of the year, our ancestors lit and now we light that one candle, and then one more each night that follows. I’d like to think that these candles are about hope, but it is more than that for me this year. The light-in-darkness reminds me to hold my ground, to be steady or sturdy when the winds blow strongest, to know I’m not alone, and that inevitably the storms will blow over. These Chanukah candles kept our ancestors going, a reminder to hold on tight where we can, but also to move forward positively, as the best of who we are, when we can.
For all of us, my simple wish is for a happier year ahead.