One of the humorous memes doing the rounds states “After the 7-day trial of 2021, please can I return it as it’s not an improvement on the last model!”
One week into the new year, we might feel that the optimism of New Year’s Eve was naive or stupid, but I don’t believe it was either of these. Wishing each other a ‘Happy New Year’ need not be just a platitude, it can also be a statement of intent to do our part to turn the wish into reality. After watching the tumultuous events that unfolded in Washington DC, and with the daily death toll from Covid-19 again horridly high, it would be very easy to retreat into hibernation or fall into depths of misery.
That is not what we will do! All our Jewish teachings tell us not to do this and, further, my reading of the state of our nation tells me that this is the worst thing we could possibly do.
Yes, we will stay home as mandated by the lockdown rules and Jewish doctrine of “Choose Life!” From the safety of our own homes in lockdown, we will continue to reach out to others by phone or any form of video connection. Where our friends or neighbours need assistance, we will continue to provide it. We will, I trust, continue to support all the key workers who help keep the essentials of health, education, communication and transport going.
Further, we need to concentrate on upholding our democracy, for the sort of challenge that took place in Washington DC could happen here if our complacency enables it. Democracy is not just about the day we cast our votes, it is about transparency and accountability every day. Do something each day or week in support of these principles – write to your MP or local Councillor; write directly to ministers in the government about matters that concern you. Join a political party that aligns with your values and attend its (virtual) meetings. Encourage others to do the same, so that it’s not just extremists who influence policies but also passionate moderates.
As we continue to read the story of the Exodus from Egypt, remember that we have to act as if we escaped Egypt, keeping that memory fresh as the fuel for freedom. Keep yourselves safe, and help society be safe for future years and generations. We can make this a happy year, starting by doing a little good each day in January!
Rabbi Richard Jacobi