Sunday, January 3, 2016

Parashat Shemot- New Years and New Adventures

V'eileh sh'mot b'nei Yisrael haba'im Mitzraima et Ya'akov ish u'veito ba'u
Now these are the names of the children of Israel who came towards Egypt with Jacob, every man with his household. (Sh'mot 1:1)
At the beginning of the book of Sh'mot, the children of Israel are embarking on a new adventure. They are entering a new stage of life. How appropriate it is that we are reading this chapter in the first week of a new year being celebrated around the world. The past year has been one of difficulties and joys. Our world has seen many changes. Many of us worry about what may be coming for the future. We worry about the world we have created for ourselves, for our children, for our grandchildren, and for generations to come.
During the past year, and even now, I find myself thinking back to my own teenage and university years. I am sure it is partially due to my family's stage of life with two teens at home and one in university, but also in reaction to those who look back at "the good old days." I find myself wanting to quote Billy Joel, "The good old days weren't always good, and tomorrow's not as bad as it seems."[1]
I vividly remember worrying about the Cold War. We seemed on the brink of world annihilation. We hoped the "Russians loved their children too."[2] If you ever chance to visit the War Museum in Ottawa, check out the music of the Cold War. It defined my generation, and a few before me. Before that there was Vietnam and Korea. There were the wars to end all wars.
Life is different today. Gone from my heart and mind is the fear of world annihilation. Unfortunately, we have created new worries. We live with world knowledge, for good and for bad. Anything that happens anywhere can and is broadcast around the globe. Unfortunately news reporting has not changed. Scandal and horror still leads headlines. Through this, the 24-hour news cycle damages us. We are bombarded with horrors from around the world. Not only the news, but so-called entertainment. Between reality TV and dramas, we are led to believe that most people want to stab their neighbours in the back, whether figuratively or literally.
Still, positive moments, while not the choice of news sources, go viral. We seek out and share happy moments, funny quotes, anything that makes us smile or feel. While the news cycle promotes terror and egocentrism, the majority of individuals share positive and helping moments.
The world has changed. During my first trip to Israel, bombs were regularly found in garbage cans. Twenty years ago busses and pizza places were hit by terrorists with similar frequency and much greater damage. I grew up visiting New York City, a much more violent place in the 1970's and 80's. Contrary to the images broadcast to us, the world has positively evolved. We will go through difficult times. They may seem never ending. Nonetheless, we know, as we embark on our journey into Egypt, that though the future holds great difficulty, we can be sure there is a light and a path on the other end.

[1] "Keeping the Faith," by Billy Joel
[2] "Russians," by Sting

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