Over the last two weeks, including the ten Days of Awe, I have spent a lot of time thinking about my place in the world. I want to better myself, to correct my sins and be a more well-rounded, thoughtful, and present person.
As I look around the world, it is difficult to see perfection. It is far easier to find hate, poverty, strife. Entire peoples are fleeing their homes, only to find doors slammed in their faces. The problems of both of my countries are laid bare in front of both the population and our leaders, and yet nothing is done to fix them. Brothers and sisters fight against one another, seeing their differences far more vividly than they see their bonds of love. Most troublingly, we feel helpless to actually do much of anything to make the world a better place.
I refuse to participate in that, though. I can’t turn a blind eye. I can’t stay silent while so much needs to be done to help the world move forward. I can’t let politics and a fear of rocking the boat get in the way of my ability to feel like I can actually make the changes to the world that I think it needs.
In the next year, I hope to be able to bring fresh passion and enthusiasm to my work to repair the world. I want to be able to bring my commitment to social action forward, yet not buy into the pettiness and narrow-mindedness that is so prevalent in active debate today. Most importantly, I need to be in control of my emotions. I can’t effectively make the world better if I am getting angry or frustrated. I need to see the world as it is, accept it, and do what it takes to move it in the direction that I believe does the most good. This is my primary goal as we move into a new Jewish year, and one I hope can have a profound impact not only on my own disposition, but on the way that I can effectively inspire change.
I am constantly reminded of the words of Rabbi Tarfon in Pirkei Avot: “You are not obligated to complete the work of perfecting the world, but neither are you free to desist from it.” This is the time in the Jewish calendar where we have an opportunity to take stock of our own lives, sure, but also to take stock of what is going on in the world around us. We can see the areas that need perfecting, the places where we can do better, where we need to do better. We need to look out for one another. We need to hold one another accountable. We need to keep each other safe. And we need to make sure that we are constantly evaluating the work we are doing to make those things happen.
More than at any point in our history, we have the power to quickly and efficiently change the world. We have ways to communicate across the globe in fractions of a section, ways to mobilize enormous communities for a common cause, ways to engage in meaningful and thoughtful debate. Let’s use these tools to drive us forward as a global community, rather than backward.
I pray for patience. I pray for thoughtfulness and kindness. And I pray that we can all work together to bring a little bit of holiness into the world.
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