Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Thoughts on the New Year

David Brooks writes in the NY Times today about a perceived change in culture in the United States in the years since the end of World War II. His article, High Five Nation describes a cultural shift from a default position of humility to one of self-congratulation and pride. He even quotes Bing Crosby at the end of the war,

  • “All anybody can do is thank God it’s over,” Bing Crosby ... said. “Today our deep down feeling is one of humility,” he added.
Brooks goes on to quote an article written by correspondent Ernie Pyle:
  • “We won this war because our men are brave and because of many things — because of Russia, England and China and the passage of time and the gift of nature’s material. We did not win it because destiny created us better than all other peoples. I hope that in victory we are more grateful than we are proud.”
(by the way, I'm not sure his evaluation is totally fair - a friend today commented that the celebrations in Times Square of the Allied victory were hardly understated - and yet..) There is an element of his argument that rings true to me as a Jewish educator.

At this time of year, as we approach Rosh HaShanah, much of the liturgy we participate in and that we are preparing our students to participate in revolves around our belief that ultimately it is God who is responsible and to whom we are responsible, not only ourselves.

When we survive a life-threatening incident we thank God for sparing us.
When we hear of a death the traditional response is "Baruch Dayan Emet", 'Blessed is the Righteous Judge', which again confirms our belief that life and death are in God's hands.

It is God who decides who lives and who dies.

There is, I think, an essential humility in this belief that David Brooks would admire.

In the year coming, I wish you all a productive and fulfilling partnership with God in achieving all you wish for.

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