Second Thoughts: High Hopes and New Beginnings

30 Oct 2008

Long ago, Chazal told us Kol hatchalot kashot – All new beginnings are difficult. But what would life be without new beginnings? They are a source of new hope, new plans, new possibilities. Still, they take a lot of getting used to. This year I found myself dealing with an oversized trio of New Beginnings – Global, National and Domestic – and every morning when I woke up, each one clamored for my attention. I had a hard time deciding which to concentrate on first.

My Global Beginning began, of course, with Rosh Hashana and the chagim. In addition to my annual culinary preparations (and this year’s calendar necessitated a never ending rendezvous with the kitchen), the situation of the world-at-large and the Middle East in particular generated much concern and called for much preparation. I davened more fervently than usual, tried to figure out where to begin this year’s Teshuva process and tried to get my List of Requests into proper order. (I find that the more time passes, the longer my list of needs and requests grows.) But despite my concern as to what the year would bring, since we are all ma’aminim bnei ma’aminim – devoutly believing Jews, by the time Hoshana Raba rolled around, I trusted that Hakadosh Baruch Hu had accepted our heartfelt prayers and granted us a year of blessings – peace, health and parnassa (even Wall Street will get its act in order…) for all. Our poor sorrowing world needs all the blessings it can get.

This year, my National Beginnings also expanded. They went international and crossed the ocean westward. In both Israel and the United States, Democracy was in action and full view as the throes of Election Fever spread throughout the provinces. As a good citizen, I felt I should be well informed and up to date. By the time you read this, someone new might very well be heading your particular government. But whoever will be in office in either the Washington or Jerusalem branch of the World, he/she will be in need of countless blessings to realize their high hopes. They will need monumental amounts of wisdom, strength of purpose, moral certitude, support, qualities of leadership. It won’t be easy. Personally, I could never understand why anyone would want jobs like these, but I suppose it takes all kinds to make a world.

Here, in the more easterly section of the globe (pass New York and keep going…), we will also be voting for a new national leader and government (at least according to today’s news announcements which may change by tomorrow). In addition to the aforementioned qualities for leadership, we’re praying hard that whomever is elected to govern G-d’s People in the Holy Land, whichever government comes to power, harbors a healthy dose of Yiddishe hartz –Jewish heart- and sechel -intelligence. And if he or she remembers that the hearts and heads of leaders are all in the hands of G-d, that would be a splendid thing as well. It’s a big order, but like I said, we are all believers, imbued with unceasing hope for New Beginnings, right?

Last, on the Domestic Homefront, our family is also into an important New Beginning. As with most beginnings, we’re floating on a cloud of excitement and high hopes. After two years of planning, purchasing and paying, we finally moved into a shiny, brand new apartment complex. On paper, it seemed to answer all our prayers. In practice…. well, there are always a few hitches in practice.

Eventually, most of the problems will, with G-d’s help, hopefully work themselves out and the things that are supposed to work, will do so. The others – stubborn annoyances which refuse to fall into place – will fade into the background and become part of the scenery (which is pretty glorious around Maaleh Adumim). In the end result, a lot of things depend on how one decides to view the “scenery”.

Meanwhile, however, we’re still at the beginning and some things are still bumpy. The hot water isn’t always hot; the keys don’t always turn in the door; the air conditioner has its own internal thermometer, unrelated to the desert temperature outside. The elevator doesn’t go up and down; the light switches play off-and-on. You get the idea. But these are all minor annoyances. In the grand, universal scale of things they are important only because they help pay for the privilege of living in Eretz Yisrael which, as we all know, is acquired only thru yissurim – difficulties and a measure of suffering.

On the other hand, bumpy beginnings aren’t all that bad. If we don’t learn how to get through them, how can we possibly get anywhere at all? If you don’t think you’ll survive the wedding preparations, how can you get to the chuppah? If you’re afraid of the labor pains, how will you ever get to hold that precious new baby? If we aren’t willing to take hold of life’s offerings and try to give them some semblance of order, how will we ever accomplish anything of value? It can be discouraging when those high hopes land considerably lower than planned, but if you can’t get what you want, we all know the secret is to want what you get.

So now that the New Year with all its beginnings has turned into the Current Year, it’s time to get to work and turn those high hopes into solid accomplishments. Undoubtedly, they won’t match our original, fanciful dreams, but we can turn them into the real stuff – imperfect but long-lasting, and harbingers of even better things to come.

© 2008 Yaffa Ganz. Yaffa Ganz is the award winning author of more than forty Jewish juvenile titles including Sand and Stars – a 2000 year saga of Jewish history for teen readers. Her latest book – “A Different Dimension” published by Hamodia Publishers – is an anthology of essays on contemporary Jewish life.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.