Ready For Not, Here Comes 2024!

by Rabbi Lee Friedlander

Dear Friends,

Almost a century ago, the hilariously sardonic poet, Ogden Nash, anticipating the beginning of a new year, wrote the following poem titled, “Good Riddance, But Now What?”

Come children, gather round my knee:
Something is about to be.

Tonight’s December thirty-first
Something is about to burst.

The clock is crouching, dark and small,
Like a time bomb in the hall.

Hark! It’s midnight, children dear.
Duck! Here comes another year.

The world then was in precarious enough a state of affairs to warrant the poet’s warning, yet he and the world managed to survive another forty years after he penned the poem.  Though Nash died in 1971, the world has continued without him on its orbit around the sun suggesting that it will go on its not-so-merry way in 2024.  I dare not ask why, but I must ask how.

By any measure, 2023 can be designated an annus horribilus / a horrible year.  Putin’s continued push into Ukraine, Hamas’s massacre and kidnappings of Israelis and Israel’s devastating retaliation, and the exponential rise of antisemitism most notably on North American college campuses – any one of these three events would qualify the year to be among the worst in the past quarter-century.  What’s as disconcerting is that we can anticipate more of the same in the coming year with a presidential campaign and a national election thrown into the toxic mix.

In light of all this, Mr. Nash would have us duck, but life would go on even with our heads down.  Moreover, if we did that, we might just lose our humanity.  Can we turn away from the dreadful reality before us and be worthy of life?  Still, we know that while we will continue to contribute to organizations and to individuals to support people who are suffering, while we remain vigilant against the forces of intolerance and hatred, and while we will canvas and vote for the candidates of our choice, we must find strength and courage to do what we can.  From where will that come?  How will we rise far enough above the fray to act?

A source of inner strength will be grounded in gratitude.  Tending a garden or looking up at the night sky will not defeat an authoritarian leader or do anything to get ideologically rigid representatives or officials to compromise, but it will give us a sense of the world beyond us and them.  Family and community will fortify us too.  Kind and loving words from people in our lives will be a light on our path, a beacon into the darkness of the larger world.

Universally from time immemorial, people have ritualized the lighting of lights with the approach of solstice.  It is that source of light, which brightens winter, that the psychologist, Mary Pipher wrote about in the Times a fortnight ago.  She concluded her essay with this antidote for the darkness that lies ahead.

“Every day I remind myself that all over the world most people want peace.  They want a safe place for their families, and they want to be good and do good.  The world is filled with helpers.  It is only the great darkness of this moment that can make it hard to see them.

“No matter how dark the days, we can find light in our own hearts, and we can be one another’s light.  We can beam light out to everyone we meet.  We can let others know we are present for them, and we will try to understand.  We cannot stop all the destruction, but we can light candles for one another.”

Thanks to Dr. Pipher, and with the help of every one of you, I am ready to meet 2024 head-on.  With gratitude to each of you and for the collectivity of our Synagogue Community, I wish you a Good Year.  Maybe a year of health, kindly acts, and peace for you and our world.


Rabbi Lee Friedlander