Hope, the gift of Judaism.
I’ve been reading the extra psalm, Psalm 27, during this month of Elul and am inspired by the reference to hope. In this psalm, David shares a message of hope with the Jewish people that prayers may not be answered the first time, but we should not lose faith. We should strengthen our hearts and continue placing our trust in G-d.
The psalm ends with “Have hope in G-d; be strong, let your heart be brave and have hope in G-d." What I found most interesting in the commentary was that “having hope in G-d is not a means to an end; it is a way of life. King David repeats his expression of hope in G-d to imply that even after his wishes were fulfilled he still continued to hope.”
I learned that this notion of hope in the good times as well the hard times is part of our tradition. “Hope is the gift of Judaism to the world," asserts Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. “Western civilization is the product of two cultures: ancient Greece and ancient Israel. The Greeks believed in fate: the future is determined by the past. Jews believed in freedom: there is no ‘evil decree’ that cannot be averted. The Greeks gave the world the concept of tragedy. Jews gave it the idea of hope.”
Rabbi Sacks continues to write in his article, How Jewish People Invented Hope, that “to be a Jew is to be an agent of hope in a world serially threatened by despair. Every ritual, every mitzvah, every syllable of the Jewish story, every element of Jewish law, is a protest against escapism, resignation or the blind acceptance of fate. Judaism is a sustained struggle, the greatest ever known, against the world that is, in the name of the world that could be, should be, but is not yet.”
I never really thought about this concept in this way. “Judaism is the only civilization whose golden age is in the future. It is a belief in human freedom. We are what we choose to be. Society is what we chose to make it. The future is open. There is nothing inevitable in the affairs of humankind,” contends Rabbi Sacks, who served as chief rabbi of England from 1991-2013. What an empowering thought!
So, it’s about seeing the glass half full. Although that’s been very difficult during this time of COVID, civil unrest, and warring political factions, we must hope for a better world… one filled with kindness, compassion, happiness, success, love and hope. Let’s believe that the world will be brighter no matter how difficult life can get. As Desmond Tutu said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
Let’s commit in this New Year, 5781, to be a community of hope. Let’s come together to unite and support each other even though at times we may disagree. There is more that unites us than divides us. As Nelson Mandela said, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” Let’s take heed of our Jewish learnings and prayers. Let’s not miss what makes Judaism unique. Even Israel’s national anthem is of hope, Hatikvah!
My hope is that each of you will be filled with hope in this year to come and that you will be blessed with good health, love in your heart, contentment in your soul and a spirit of tzedakah. G’mar Hatima Tova….May you all be inscribed in the book of life.