As 2021 draws to a close, it’s a good time to pause and reflect upon meaningful events, on the year to come and on important values from Torah that offer great meaning to life.
Consider the following significant events of the past year:
*The world continued to adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic with the new threat of the omicron variant upending winter and secular holiday plans once again. In 2021, more than 7.4 billion doses of vaccine have been given and yet the virus continues. Israel has been the world’s leader in aggressively treating the virus, and has plans to administer fourth, fifth and sixth vaccinations. Israel’s example is important. We must continue to adapt our lives to survive, which likely will mean adjusting our behavior and getting additional vaccinations.
*The world has been beset by climate change. Texans know that summers are getting hotter and winters are warmer. President Joe Biden has committed the nation to battling climate change. Yet, it’s worth noting that just in November, the climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland, fell short of reaching an international consensus. The threat to the earth remains.
*The United States’ exit from Afghanistan was bleak. President Biden was likely correct when he said that there would never be an easy exit. The images of teeming masses hoping to leave the Kabul airport are a painful reminder of the blood and treasure that America, Great Britain, France, Germany, Australia and many other nations spent in Afghanistan. The Taliban is again in charge and that nation remains a sea of troubles.
*President Biden is completing his first year in office. America remains bitterly divided. The Atlantic magazine has reported that almost 20% of Americans do not accept the legitimacy of Biden’s election. The storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 was a wakeup call to the nation. We must renew our efforts to be civil in both the nation’s politics and in our dealings with others..
*In 2021, the world has witnessed the horrors of famine. The scourge of mass hunger in Ethiopia is a festering sore. Recent news reports offer little hope for a quick resolution of the conflict. Let us remember, as we see the televised images of people wracked by starvation, that we are all part of one world. Judaism is about justice and the quest to achieve it. Let us offer our prayers and meaningful support to those suffering from malnutrition.
These are only a few of the problems that the world has experienced in 2021. Torah offers important lessons to help us meet the challenges before us in the year to come.
As the great sage Hillel taught the skeptic: “That which is hateful to yourself, do not do unto any other person.” When we treat others with courtesy and respect, we are exhibiting our yetzer tov, the inherent goodness with which Hashem has blessed us.
Let us resolve to live by the value of kedushah or holiness. Leviticus 19 teaches us that “You shall be holy for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” When we emulate Hashem, we are guided by divine precepts. In our families, with others, in work, businesses and professions, let us endeavor to act with enlightened grace. Taking a few moments each day to remember that Hashem has blessed us with the gift of life can add deep meaning to our existence and our relationships.
To achieve kedushah, let us be mindful of performing g’milut hassadim, acts of loving-kindness. Each of us can try every day to bring kindness to others. Our words are powerful weapons. Let us use them to be kind. Our actions convey our character. Let us help others, visit the sick, feed the hungry and comprehend that, like a stone dropped in a pond, each of our actions ripples throughout the world.
Finally, an idea from Viktor Frankl, the eminent psychotherapist and Auschwitz survivor, is uplifting. Frankl, who wrote “Man’s Search for Meaning,” taught: Don’t ask what you want from life. Ask what life wants from you. Each of us is unique. Within every soul lies a unique talent or ability that can help repair the world. This is the Jewish value of tikkun olam, repairing a broken world.
In 2022, let us endeavor to improve the world by using our lives to help others. At its essence, repairing the world is affirming the Judaic ideal of monotheism, that there is one God. Let us work together to establish Hashem’s goodness in the world in which we live. Each of us has a role to play in life’s great adventure.