Think back to your past year. What were the overarching themes for you? Who played starring roles? What were the biggest lessons?
A couple weeks ago, I went to dinner with several Jewish friends. We took turns going around the table and sharing the biggest lessons we learned over the course of 12 months.
We’d collectively charted all kinds of new paths in 2014—exploring our spiritual lives as Jews, forging new friendships and deepening older ones, starting new romantic pursuits and closing the chapter on others, raising little children, and taking on new professional challenges.
For many, our past year played out differently than we’d envisioned, filled with simcha, but also sadness.
After we watched some doors close these last 12 months, we’ll see new windows open in 2015. Each of us will take a journey in the year ahead. So much of next year is a clean slate, yet to be written.
There’s something hopeful and exciting about the unknown, the many varied paths and possibilities that will unfold for each of us this year, new people waiting just around the corner to enter our lives.
Yet we must embrace our hopeful future fully aware that the world also confronts us with human turmoil, strife, and disaster—a world crying out for repair.
So many bad things happened to good people this year. We saw the rise of a terrorist group whose evil knows no bounds. Ebola. Unprecedented levels of starvation and displacement in Africa. Gang violence in our own city. The crisis in Ukraine. The war in Gaza. A level of global anti-Semitism not seen since Nazi Germany and animosity reaching a fever pitch on our own college campuses. The deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice that—no matter what the circumstances—have opened our eyes to the level of racial tension and racism that still persists.
And this past workweek alone, the killing of two innocent people at a Sydney cafe, and the sheer horror of a Taliban attack on a school in Pakistan that killed 145 people, mainly children, that almost physically sickens me to write about.
As I sit here on Chanukah, recalling the darkness, my mind drifts to a place of light—a beautiful moment I had in Jerusalem a couple of summers ago.
I had just prayed at the Kotel with a friend of mine when we happened upon a celebration of people lining the streets of Jerusalem at sunset, holding hands, dancing, and singing a beautiful Israeli song, called “Salaam (Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu),” sung in both Hebrew and Arabic. The song, which translates as “Peace Will Come Upon Us,” has come to symbolize a call for peace.
Some of the revelers wore kippot, others dreads, and a few donned keffiyehs. People formed drum circles, adults and children beating the drums together in rhythm.
In the spirit of the moment, I jumped into the crowd and interlaced fingers with a young kippah-clad man on one side and an Asian woman on the other.
When I asked the man next to me what was going on, he told me this was all part of what is known in Israel as the “Jerusalem Hug,” a show of prayer for love, peace, and unity that happens every year on the summer solstice.
I recalled that beautiful moment in Jerusalem a lot this past year.
As we ignite the lights of both Chanukah and Shabbat tomorrow night—let’s hope for more such moments like that one in the year ahead, and let’s pray that one day soon we all will dance and sing that song of peace together in harmony.