The advent of the new year always occasions within us the urge to look and plan ahead. I spent some time this past week filling in my calendar for 5774 with commitments made and projects planned for the coming good and blessed new year. Yet there always hovers over us the uncertainty, which is the basic stuff of life itself, of the unknown future that lurks ahead. We are all aware that man merely proposes but only God actually disposes.
If that be the case, then we might legitimately ask why bother planning ahead and filling in calendars for hoped-for events that will take place months in the future. Is this not an act of ultimate hubris, if not even pure futility? Yet in spite of this realization, which is common to all humans, our instinctive nature demands us to plan ahead and to schedule events and projects long before they actually occur and take shape.
Somehow we all are innately aware that life is not a dash but rather a marathon and therefore requires planning, preparation and long-term vision. So we summon up our courage and confidence and fill in our calendars for the coming year. By so doing we overcome all of the doubts and uncertainties that otherwise plague us.
My teachers in the yeshiva long ago taught me that one should always be occupied with important projects and works for then there is a probability that Heaven will allow the person the time and ability to see the matter through to its conclusion.
It is a striking fact that people who are determined to live to celebrate a certain family event or other such specific goal are able to summon up the necessary ability to see that event or accomplish that goal in spite of the normal physical odds that work against it. Planning ahead helps guarantee that there will be a future to experience!
Our attachment and love of our grandchildren (and for many of us who are so blessed, great-grandchildren) stems from our confidence in the future. The mere determination to bring future generations of one’s family into an uncertain future world is itself the strongest reaffirmation of faith and confidence in Providence.
The Midrash teaches us that at the low point of Jewish life, in slavery in Egypt, there was a movement amongst Jews not to procreate any longer. Why produce more miserable slaves for Pharaoh? Yet Miriam the sister of Moshe and Aharon convinced her parents to ignore this seemingly logical policy and thus Moshe, the savior of Israel and the teacher of all mankind, was born.
The entire story of the Jewish people is one of looking ahead. The State of Israel was built on the ability of Jews living in disparate but hateful parts of the world to look forward to a time and place where Jews would have their own national entity and, to a great extent, be the masters of their own fate. It was at best an unlikely hope, even a pipe dream, but look at us now. Looking ahead is one of the keys to having the future actually occur.
The coming year appears to be shrouded in great problems. What will be the results in Syria and in Egypt and in the rest of the violent and permanently unstable Arab world of our neighbors? How about the economy and the social issues that so divide us here in Israel? What will be with the Charedi draft issue? How well will the Chief Rabbinate here in Israel function under new leadership? And above all, the dangerous question of Iran looms large and quite menacing.
So what can we say now about the future of 5774? Who knows? And yet I feel duty bound to fill in my calendar and be confident that it will be a good year for all concerned, notwithstanding all of the current problems that so vex us. Jews have always looked forward to better times and that is what has enabled us to survive and even flourish in difficult times.
The Yomim Noraim are a time of awe and judgment but they are also a time of a forward- looking perspectives. The old year has gone and we have met and survived its challenges. It is the challenges of the new year that we now face and they must be met coolly and confidently, for our future is replete with endless opportunities and potential blessings. A good and happy new year to all.