The last couple of years have been pretty bad. Not especially profound, not too difficult to make that statement. In the midst of a global pandemic, as we witness the collapse of Afghanistan, that is not a political statement or opinion. Just days ago a magnitude 7.2 earthquake killed 2,200 people and destroyed 50,000 homes in Haiti. Things are definitely tough all over.
Yet despite all this tragedy, in the very hospitals where people were breathing their last breath, new life was coming into existence. It is cliché to say this is the cycle of life. But it is so powerfully true, life goes on.
Babies will be born, life begins anew. This is one of the lessons we are reminded of every Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. This year perhaps even more.
Yet many would say, even if they did not have the courage to say it out loud, that in light of recent events, what is the point in bringing new life into such a destructive world? To subject another generation to catastrophe, both man-made and natural, to the uncertainty of such a world where these events can occur. Why?
Against this doom I would argue that we are indeed doing better, that recent generations are reaching closer to realizing the truest potential of humanity.
Consider for a moment that 75 years ago, Americans were emerging from the death and destruction of the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific. Simultaneously, the world was just beginning to comprehend the murder of millions in ghettos and death camps.
And consider that not even 50 years ago, tens of thousands of American soldiers, as well as millions of innocent civilians died in Vietnam. And this was only one of several regional conflicts going on simultaneously.
When it comes to the wholesale slaughter of individuals, the devastation of entire continents, can we truly compare the world we live in now, to the one that existed one or two generations ago? I firmly believe, with all my heart, that my children have been born into a safer place than my father was.
My father, and his father before him, made sure I would live in a less violent world than the one they were born into, indeed a healthier world. And I pray that I do my part to make sure that my children will live in an even safer world.
Every generation owes it to the next.
“Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, never again shall they train for war.”
The prophet Micah spoke those words some 3,000 years ago. A vision of a world without a standing military, without professional soldiers in a state of constant readiness. A vision of a world where a mother would never again have to worry about her son taking a bullet on some faraway shore. A vision of the world at peace.
We clearly aren’t there yet. However, each baby, each new life, represents potential, a new generation that will do a better job, a new generation that much closer to redemption. We know this instinctively. And it is why just the sight of a baby melts our hearts.
As we celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the birthday of humanity, may we truly see this year as a chance for new life. May this be the beginning of a good and blessed new year.
And may we see in the birth of the year, the blessing of even greater potential.
Rabbi Mark Blazer is the rabbi of Temple Beth Ami in Santa Clarita.