Move forward, now

We will not accomplish everything, but as 2020 starts, we should jump from the starting line and demonstrate what we are capable of doing.

There will still be antisemitism in 2020 – here’s why  (photo credit: Courtesy)
There will still be antisemitism in 2020 – here’s why
(photo credit: Courtesy)
As we prepare for January 1st, 2020, we are fortunate, as always, to celebrate the holiday of Hanukkah.
It’s not a biblical holiday, but was accepted into the annual cycle because, initially, it emphasized how the sacred oil was found and ner tamid was rekindled. Even though the rabbis who compiled the Mishnah
were not too sympathetic to military victories, we find that in the grace after meals’ al hanissim prayer for Hanukkah, the victory over the enemies is stressed and we recite it many times. In the apocryphal books, the triumph of the Maccabees saved the Jewish people and the Jewish faith.
As this new year begins, we can be inspired by the Maccabees who were a small band but grew into a mighty fighting force – and triumphed. As Judah Maccabee proved to us, victory is possible if we stand up tall and use the energy we possess.
When the famous runner, Glenn Cunningham, was a little boy, he was the victim of a fire that burned his legs badly. Some thought that he would never walk again, but he proved everyone wrong. When his legs healed somewhat and his pain lessened, he started to walk, next he began to run slowly at first, and then faster. He was so fast that he set the record for running the mile, a record that existed for a number of years.
We can also start to run, we can begin to achieve, we can begin to make changes in our society, in our government, and in issues like underlining the significance for caring for the elderly. We will not accomplish everything, but as 2020 starts, we should jump from the starting line and demonstrate what we are capable of doing.
In the Torah portion read when the New Year 2020 begins, there is the moving conversation between Judah and Joseph about freeing Benjamin. Of course, Joseph at this time is still only an Egyptian in the eyes of Judah and his brothers. The tension is high. Neither Judah nor the reader knows what the final decision will be. Truthfully, we have hints about the culmination of this confrontation.
We know that Joseph has taken steps to provide sustenance for his father and his brothers and their families during the famine.
We realize that Judah is facing a very harrowing time. He has to forge the future if he is to succeed. He chooses  a word which he believes will soften the heart of  the Egyptian so that he will “let all these brothers go back home.” The word is “father.” Count how many times the word “father” appears in Judah’s address.
When my wife, Rita, and I studied with Dr. Nehama Leibowitz just over 60 years ago, she enlightened us about this speech.
 “Judah recognized that the only element of life which each shared was a ‘father’,” she said.
Using that as the pillar of his plea, Judah felt that he could influence the future, and Joseph, the Egyptian ruler, would free Benjamin. Moreover, only a positive future would erase the guilt Judah felt because he had not saved Joseph many years before.
WE ARE PRESENTED on January 1st with a daily opportunity to make the future that we choose to be real. T. S. Eliot, the noted poet, explained to us  what we must do to effect our personal future.
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language,” he wrote, “and next year’s words await  another voice.”
If we can discover and use that “voice” then we will find  that there is much we will do in a most exciting manner. Seek that voice – let the world know that it is yours and build from there.
This past year, 2019,  had difficulties for us in our personal lives, as well as being hard for us as citizens of Israel. Thankfully, Israel did not have any wars – just exploding balloons causing fires and rockets from the Gaza Strip aimed at the cities, the kibbutzim, the moshavim in the south.
What we experienced, I know we still feel. Yet, we know the future, undiscovered at this point, can be better.
“Each year’s regrets are envelopes in which messages of hope are found for the new year,” wrote author John Dallas. Can each of us really read our messages of hope? They will tantalize us to fashion each of our days or a goodly number of them in such a way that the coming year 366, days will blossom as we water them with our conviction for a better life, for a better world and perhaps even a government for our nation.
When I was in the US army, I was told “not to volunteer.” Interestingly, later on in  my two months of basic training in IDF I had to volunteer. Each person – religious, secular, haredi (yes we had haredim in our basic training) – knew he had to carry his weight with no excuses.
In 2020, what will we do to insure the future will be shaped in the way we want it to be? You and I must not hide from building and forging the future. As the following anonymous poem emphasizes,  face every challenge presented, don’t run away and pass the buck.
There’s a clever young fellow named SOMEBODY ELSE,
There’s nothing this fellow can’t do.
He’s busy from morning ‘till late at night
Just substituting for you.
You’re asked to do this, or asked to do that,
And what is your  ready reply?
“Get SOMEBODY ELSE, Mr. Chairman
He’ll do it much better than I."
The future is in our hands, my fellow human beings. Only each of us can make the days ahead march to the sound of our voice, as Eliot told us. Then sing a song whose melody will infuse you with a desire to work hard, being “somebody else,” and make your efforts count.
The gematria of 365 is the Hebrew word “Shafah” meaning to “be at ease.” This coming year there are 366 days, make sure you are inspired by that extra day.  Yes, the future is unknown but you can give it your own personal seal.