“New Year, New Light”

Writing on the cusp of a NewYear, we all want a realistic look at what has been, and to also find the light within what has occurred. This past few months has been a dark spot indeed inJewish history and in all of our lives.

In so many ways it has touched our deepest fears – that evil and catastrophe are out there lurking, that unspoken antisemitism broods and percolates where it can’t be seen, and that allies we think we can depend upon won’t come through when needed. Those are the fears upon which so many of us were raised, and that we hoped were now outdated And yet each of them manifested in some way.

When I was growing up the rabbis in school taught that the ancient rabbis compared our people to eggs and to olives – to eggs because boiling eggs makes them harder and more firm; and to olives because the hardest pressing creates the best oil.

It comforted me growing up and it comforts me now.

Oddly and amazingly, morale in Israel right now is incredibly high, based on many conversations I have had with people in the army, and with civilians in the streets.

The volunteerism amongst the Israeli population is beyond astounding. As we all know, with so many ‘called up’ to serve, there are jobs in stores and factories to fill, and crops ripening on vines and trees waiting to be harvested.

One out of every two Israelis – fully 50% of the civilian population – Is engaged in volunteerism in some way. Younger children pack sandwiches for those at the front. Friends I know cook chicken and cholent to be delivered to soldiers each weekend.Teens are volunteering to pick fruit in the fields. It is an incredibly robust democracy at work. In a modern era, this is an incredible show of unity and connectedness amongst a civilian population. I am hard pressed to think of any country anywhere where this might be happening at such a level.

In the words of Samuel II, Chapter 7, “Mi K’Amcha Yisrael? – Who Is like your peopleIsrael?” The quote is from the sixth century BCE, the exhibition of behavior and its reality is from exactly now.

I write this so we can all feel the pride and ‘nachas’ of being part of our unique people – who over and over have revived and shown strength.

But I also write this so we can examine what we see and take lessons and perspectives into our lives.

All of us have hard times – at times! As is said, none of us gets through this journey without some difficulty…. it’s how we grow, learn and strengthen.

When things are hard it’s imperative that we seek out the growth and that we see the light – and there is always light.

In this case, from emergency and crisis and grief has come unity and helping and determination. Our charge is to have the grit and wisdom and determination to seethe strength in Israelis and in Jews all over the world, and then have the determination and integrity to bring these strengths into our daily vision and everyday actions.


Rabbi Mark Biller