Viewpoint: What can we hope for in 2018?

Shape the time that is your own personal possession, and as you do, the hours, days and months of 2018 will fill your life with a brighter future.

David and Rita Geffen on their wedding day (photo credit: COURTESY DAVID GEFFEN)
David and Rita Geffen on their wedding day
AS WE begin 2018, we should think about how we have used the days in the past year and what awaits us in the year ahead.
Years ago, after my wife Rita and I and our children, Avie, Elissa and Tuvia immigrated to Israel from the US, I led a group of college students, along with my family, for a day of touring and then Shabbat in Tiberias.
Upon arriving and depositing our bags where we would be sleeping, our local guide notified us that we were going to be exploring a natural site.
The bus took us to the middle of an overgrown field and left. The guide led us in the direction of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), which we could clearly see in the distance. Very quickly the brush ceased and we found ourselves at Arbel cliff, the side of which, it turned out, we were going to climb down.
Our children were sure that this would be great fun and eagerly began the descent, moving quickly from one hand stake to another. Rita and I were a little more wary. We looked down more than a few times before we began to descend.
We were slipping and sliding as we descended, but our children climbed back and encouraged us. The guide also told us not to give up; many others had made the descent, he emphasized. After about 45 minutes of holding on dearly to each stake, we arrived at the bottom, breathless but pleased.
The year 2018 may at times remind us that we have to reach the depths before we are able to strengthen ourselves for the ascent. What over the past year brought black clouds over us?  Was it matters of family, health, finance or something else?
Each of us answers these questions in his and her own way, and as we do, we begin to understand the importance of each moment of every day.
As the English author Margaret Storm Jameson wrote: “There is only one world, the world pressing against you at this minute.
There is only one minute when you are alive, this minute – here and now. The only way to live is by accepting each minute as an unrepeatable miracle. Which is exactly what it is – a miracle and unrepeatable.”
As the new civilian year begins, we should be careful not to make promises for the days ahead that cannot be fulfilled. Goethe put it this way: “Life is a quarry out of which we are to mold and chisel and complete a character.”
We must work hard to fill our own personal self with elements that we have not previously utilized. What do we do daily for our loved ones, friends and other fellow humans? How kind are we?
What is it that we want the most? Time. Yet time moves steadily ahead. It cannot be hoarded. It cannot be reversed. Our film of life cannot be rewound nor can it be halted in its flight. Therefore, how we fashion the time we have means that we have realized what a great gift is ours, only permitting the moments, the minutes, the hours to fade away after we have crafted each to its fullest measure, our fullest measure.
“What can we do with time?” the rabbi asked. “So many things; we can kill it, we can waste it; we can use it; we can invest it.”
Horace Mann, a noted 19th-century American intellectual, once ran this ad in the paper. “Lost somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each set with 60 diamond minutes. No reward is offered for they are gone forever.”
Let us make commitments that we can fulfill. To be a better spouse and a better parent or child takes time. To be a kinder employer or employee takes time. To be helpful to people in need takes time. To develop our ideals takes time.
Rising to new heights has always been an important virtue in our family’s life. Four decades ago we were part of a group, mostly parents and children, who were going to climb Mt. Sinai.
In those days, a guide would lead groups to a site along the trail where they would sleep for a few hours before a 3 a.m. wake-up call, timed so groups could reach the mountain peak as the sun rose, as a new day was born.
Climbing carefully toward the top, the sky started to gray as dawn approached. Rita took Avie and Elissa, our older children, in hand and I put our youngest, Tuvia, on my shoulders.
As we reached the peak, the sun began to slowly peer out at us until it revealed itself completely as a burning ball of fire. We recited the shehecheyanu blessing in celebration of the special occasion of being on Mt. Sinai and for the inspiration we would always have for having been at that significant site of the Jewish people.
“Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart,” the play “Carousel” reminds us, “and you will never walk alone.”
Shape the time that is your own personal possession, and as you do, the hours, days and months of 2018 will fill your life with a brighter future.
The writer, a retired rabbi living in Jerusalem, dedicates this article to his wife, Rita, in honor of their 55th anniversary, on December 29