2021 is here at long last. Like many of you I am feeling grateful that 2020 is over. And yet…
… what does it really mean to start a New Year? There is nothing intrinsic about a change in date that will make our world better. On the surface, our hopes and fears for 2021 are pretty straightforward. We hope that 2021 will be better that 2020, and fear that it will be worse.
It is easy to attribute the fear to the Evil Inclination, what Rabbi Alan Lew called ““the tumultuous whirl-wind of impulses and dysfunctions that prevents us from doing what we should be doing.” We can become paralyzed about all kinds of awful things that are happening and might happen.
Could the hope for a better 2021 also be coming from the Evil Inclination? Don’t get me wrong – hope is powerful, necessary, and good. In fact Rabbi Nachman of Breslov said “Never give up hope! There is no despair!”
However, the Evil Inclination will sometimes try to build us up to then attack when we let our guard down. I hope that my kids will be able to go in person to college classes in the fall. But if I pin too much on that hope, I am in danger of being despondent if that doesn’t come to pass. And, I might miss opportunities to appreciate the good in today. The Covid vaccine is a source of hope, yet the growing case numbers and deaths are a cause for fear.
Some of you may have heard the teaching from Rabbi Nachman that the whole world is a narrow bridge and the important thing is not to be afraid. The present is a bridge connecting the past and the future. Let us walk together on that bridge, drawing courage from one another.
We can be 100% certain that this pandemic will pass. How and when we don’t know. But whatever happens, lets do our best to have a better 2021 than 2020. There is much we can control, but whatever happens, we can face it together.
If you’d like a closer connection to the American Mussar community, please join us in our weekly gathering Jewish Wisdom For Coping with a Pandemic. This is a drop in group, for people of any age, religion or level of Jewish background. Just come and bring a friend. Click here to learn more and get the zoom link.