During the last week, what went well for you?
To rephrase the question: Two weeks ago, what did you expect to happen last week?
Which question received a better response, the first one or the second one?
Sometimes we have high expectations about certain aspects of our lives, our projects, our children, our marriages, or simply the upcoming day. We live our lives based on the expectations we place on the future. Our desires fill our imagination and often guide us, while at other times they frustrate us and hinder our purposes.
A few days ago, I wondered what those who fought for a Medinat Israel (the State of Israel) in the first half of the 20th century would have imagined what the Jewish state would be like once it was established. Would they envision a country constantly on alert for bombings, missiles, or attacks against its population? Would they anticipate a Knesset (Israeli parliament) divided, as it currently is, between parties that attempt to push politics and religion to an extreme right-wing stance? Would it be part of their plans for the government to try to lead Israeli society towards an ultra-right-wing theocratic state?
The founders of the State of Israel had an interesting mix of right-wing and left-wing ideologies, causing the needle to swing between a kibbutz-based society and a government that needed to militarize and align itself to the right in order to form alliances that would result in greater security in a region that clearly would not be secure at all. Probably, their expectation was not to celebrate 75 years of a prosperous and model state in many aspects, one that has grown despite constantly being under the threat of attacks.
Last night, a ceasefire between the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organization and the State of Israel just began. It was nearly a month of missiles and intelligence operations to eliminate the leaders of the organization, who repeatedly seek and continue to seek the destruction of our Jewish homeland. Undoubtedly, the reform of the Supreme Court and legislative reforms concerning the Knesset, which seemed to take a back seat for a while, will likely return to the political agenda.
No. Surely David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Dayan, Golda Meir, Zalman Shazar, among others, did not envision an Israel as we see it today. They probably could not even imagine how Israel continues to be an example of progress, democracy, and adherence to the Torah in a delicate balance that strives not to be broken. Israel sustains itself amidst criticisms that barely grasp the reality of things and condemns genuine defense against explicit threats of annihilation.
A few weeks ago, we started the book of Numbers. The book that reminds us of the journey that, although it could have been short and straight to the Promised Land, was long and almost zig-zagging so that our ancestors could also learn to maintain their own balance between their daily lives and the new law they had to embrace. They also learned that expectations alone are not enough. They realized that resilience is necessary for any project. The project of a people even the project of a new Jewish state or any project we try to undertake personally or together with others with whom we share a common goal.
In an election year in several countries that matter to us and our loved ones, let us be resilient by turning our expectations into achievable actions that can modify and improve our realities. Above all, let each of us make a small plan for change that can better the society we live in so that when we look back and evaluate the week or the year or the decade that passed, we find with joyful surprise that there was something very good that we can assess and remember, not only for ourselves but for the entire world.
In the meantime, this month I will receive my Semicha, my Rabbinic Ordination on June 21st in Queens, NY. You are all invited to attend.
I look back and can only see that all the effort I have put in brings me more and more expectations for the future, more commitment to my rabbinic task, to my people, and to people of all faiths. I thank the Holy One, blessed be He, for the entire journey He helped me travel and will continue to help me traverse, with all the mistakes, stumbles, successes, sorrows, and joys. Above all else, I am grateful for the ability to continue guiding a small part of the People of Israel on a path that undoubtedly leads to a better place.
Baruch Ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolaam Shehecheianu, vekihimanu, vehigianu la zman a zé.
Dear God, Creator of our world, thank you for keeping us alive so I can celebrate this important moment with those who I love.
Rabbi Gustavo Geier