With one crisis seemingly leading to the next, Jews around the world will be happy to see the year 5774 fade in the rearview mirror.
If ever there was a year in recent memory that we couldn’t wait to end, 5774 was it.
It was as if the Jewish people were lurching from one crisis to the next, culiminating in a summer of absolute despair.
Israel’s bloody but necessary war with Hamas exposed a web of terror tunnels as citizens across the country spent their summer racing the clock, shuttling back and forth to bomb shelters. The death toll — beginning with the killing of three teenage Israelis and the revenge killing of a Palestinian youngster — was heartbreaking on all sides.
The conflagration sparked the latest round of international hypocrisy as the world condemned Israel for defending itself — using the same tactics against Hamas now being used to fight the extremist and equally brutal Islamic State.
It reignited a stunning display of anti-Semitism already brewing in Europe — as evidenced by the fatal shooting of four victims at the Jewish museum in Brussels in May — and reaching to Turkey, Latin America and war-torn Ukraine as well.
The scourge of anti-Semitism resurfaced in this country, too, with the shooting outside the JCC in Kansas City and a host of anti-Semitic graffiti on Jewish institutions both before the war and after. The resurgence of anti-Jewish animosity sparked a new surge in aliyah as Jews emigrated from France, Ukraine and elsewhere.
Scanning the global landscape — as many rabbis surely will be doing in their sermons during these Days of Awe — it is hard to conjure up much hope. But hope and pray and act we must.
Rosh Hashanah is not only a time of personal teshuvah; it is a communal endeavor. We think of Rosh Hashanah as the birthday of the world, a time of new beginnings, of all possibilities.
We are not so naive to think that the threats that face us — from Iran, from Hamas, from ISIS and from their foreign recruits, whom security experts warn could wreak havoc in this country — can easily be erased.
As we turn the page on a new year, it won’t be easy to forget what has transpired. Nor should we. We must keep a vigilant eye and activist stance on U.S. foreign policy as our country wades into a murky and potentially ill-fated alliance to fight ISIS and continues negotiations with Iran’s nuclear program.
But we can reach deep into our tradition and not only choose life, as we are instructed to do, but commit ourselves to living it in a way that enhances both our personal and our communal peace, that through acts of justice and tzedakah bring goodness to the world.
May 5775 be a sweet year, a year of peace for all.