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Looking ahead to the new year . . .

While standing at the start, the journey ahead always seems uncertain. Here we are at the beginning of 2023. A long, full, busy year awaits. We pray it will be a year of health and happiness, fulfillment and life. We pray that there will be joy and laughter, learning and love. We pray that our world will know greater peace and compassion.

But here, now, muddling through a dreary first week of January, so much seems uncertain:

–What will become of our nation’s capital, embroiled in controversy, infighting, bickering and division?

–What will become of Israel, poised for a new government which, from the outside, raises no shortage of questions and anxiety?

–Will antisemitism continue to grow and spread this year?

–What will become of those peoples long maligned for their race, their sexuality, their gender or ethnicity?

–What will become of our world’s health, following recent years of illness and fears related to the spread of illness?

–How will our children fare this year in our complicated, often harsh world?

–Will we be supported in our own efforts and endeavors, our professional and personal striving, or will we find ourselves isolated in our pursuits?

–Will we experience contentment this year?

–Will God hear our prayers this year?

–Will the Torah speak to us, guide us, shape us, and challenge us this year?

–Will our calendar of holidays bring us new meaning this year or will they feel rote and tired?

–Will we manage to look ahead with hope and enthusiasm or find ourselves trapped in a cycle of cynicism?

–Will we believe this year in the human family and the human ability to unite and heal, or will we look despondently at the human condition and its prospects?

–Will we extend a hand to those who need us or focus only on the self?

–Will we continue to believe in ourselves this year and the spark of the divine that glows within us?

As I consider these questions, I am heartened by the end of Genesis, which we read this week. Joseph, nearing the end of his life, assures his children and grandchildren: ‘God will surely take notice of you and bring you up from this land.’ It is, even in his final moments, an expression of optimism. Joseph believes that the future that awaits his own family will be profoundly good and ultimately positive. His belief is not naïve; it comes from experience. Joseph knows what can come from a life of advocacy, community, learning, and faith.

For a book that began with creation and a colorful story predicated on beginnings and excitement, the ending of Genesis feels so appropriate: There is much to look forward to. So much is possible. But we have to be partners – with each other, with God, and with our best selves – to make it so.