A lot of pressure on 5781

September 18, 2020


Dear Beit Rabban Community,


There are a lot of high hopes for 5781, big redemptive dreams. 5781 inherited a bit of a mess, to put it mildly. Who amongst us hasn't maligned 5780 (or it's partner in crime, 2020), and wished their friends and loved ones a far better 5781. That's a lot of pressure to put on a new year.


In all likelihood, 5781 will be a roller coaster of unknown. Unlike 5780, we know to expect it. What to wish each other? Do we temper our hopes? May you and your loved ones be basically okay, or at least okay enough, in 5781. Shannah tovah. Is it sincere to offer each other grand blessing? Is it even healthy to pray for the unrealistic? Obviously, I have no idea what the answer is, but I do want to share how I think about this question.
When I was in middle school, I had a very charismatic rebbe who spent a lot of time teaching and talking about mashiach, the messiah. He spoke about the mashiach coming on the holiday of Sukkot and shared a number of stories to support this likelihood. Over the course of that year, which was a challenging one for my family, I became increasingly compelled by this possibility, eventually convinced of it. Needless to say, I was devastated when Sukkot came and went without the mashiach's presence. The only big change in my life over that Sukkot was that my grandfather, who I loved deeply, passed away too young. Therein began a very long struggle with belief: belief in what I was taught about Judaism, belief in God, belief in the possibility of redemption.


I am sure many of you have experienced some variation on this experience, or may be experiencing it in full force right now, feeling full of doubt and fear and lacking in hope, whether it be 5780's fault or otherwise. I doubt this email will help, and I suspect Rosh Hashanah will be extremely painful for you. I wish that were not the case.


My personal path to optimism, Jewish optimism and faith, has been a winding one and continues to be challenged. I have read and I have tried to connect to different theological and spiritual guidance. What has been most powerful to me, and what I continue to revisit is the teaching of Rebbe Nachman MIbratzlav, if you believe the world can be broken, you must believe that it can be fixed. Life continues to prove this to me- I never know what's around the corner, neither good nor bad, and this is true in my experience in both micro and macro levels. I do not choose to be believe in redemption, I know that our lives and our world continues on an ongoing cycle of breaking and repairing. Overall, I hope that there is more repair than brokenness, and I choose to do my part to tip the scales in that direction. For me the work of repair cannot sincerely be done without the belief that it is possible. I fuel that belief by trying to recognize when I - and we- stumble over the good that meets us around the corner, rather than focusing on the bad that inevitably also trips us up. And, I look forward to the unknown good, the happy surprises, the opportunities for grand repair, the moments of redemption that add up. If that is helpful to you as we enter 5781, please hold on to it. At the very least, I think it takes some pressure off the year itself.
May we collectively and individually enjoy many happy surprises this new year, may we encounter an abundance of unexpected good, even if it is mixed in with the struggles that we do not yet know but know to expect. May we jump on every moment of potential redemption.


Shannah tovah. A gut gabencht yur. Tizku leshanim rabbot, neemot vetovot.
Stephanie