There was a Roman Holiday in the winter which was called Saturnalia. The Talmud tells us that the origins of this Holiday was from Adam – the first man. When he first encountered the winter …
There was a Roman Holiday in the winter which was called Saturnalia. The Talmud tells us that the origins of this Holiday was from Adam – the first man. When he first encountered the winter days, he saw the day becoming shorter and shorter. He feared that eventually the world would cease to exist. After the winter solstice passed and the days started to get longer, he saw that it is the way of the world, and he calmed down. For this occasion, he made a holiday to thank G-d. Eventually this holiday became a Greek and then a Roman holiday and later on it became Christmas.
Judaism also has a winter holiday – Chanukkah. In essence, the winter is a strange time to celebrate. It’s a time that people tend to be more withdrawn and hibernate at home as much as possible. However, this itself is the reason for the holiday. When we reach the depths of the winter days, we don’t get overwhelmed with despair instead we gather strength by knowing that eventually spring will come.
This is a very important message that we can’t overestimate its value – the message of hope. Even when a person is overwhelmed in despair about anything that they go through in life, they always need to know that things will become better. Humans are given the ability to strengthen themselves. We can draw encouragement and strength with our own thinking. We are always one thought away of the next positive and uplifting thought. We have the power, and hence the obligation, to find brightness and encouragement even in the darkest of times.
We just passed an election season, and like all the elections in the last few decades people hype up the talk of doom if the other side wins. I’m a believer of having passionate ideologies and opinions, but I dislike doom narratives. My feeling is that most people are tired of it. From both sides of all public policy arguments, we hear people say how the world and the country is at the brink of collapse. Thank G-d, we are still alive and kicking.
Some policies and ideologies are bad and have had its bad impact on people, which is why we need to always try to improve individually and collectively, but most times the doom warning is out of place.
Even when we feel we are in the darkest moments, either on an individual level or on the public level, we need to know that the dark moments will pass, and we’ll see the light again.
Take the darkest moments in Jewish history; what would we tell a girl in Warsaw in the year 1938 as the clouds above her became darker and darker? Now that we know what unfolded, we could have said to her the following: “Very difficult times will come; extremely difficult times will come, but, eventually, after just a few years, people will survive and go on to rebuild their lives and communities and happiness will fill again their homes. Eventually, in less than ten years from now people will survive and go on to rebuild their homeland. Stay strong and you will survive and thrive.”
We hope never ever to be in such a catastrophic situation, and we hope to never ever need to draw strength under any unimaginable circumstances. However, we could and should take the story as an example for us to always strengthen ourselves in difficult times to know that G-d runs the world and good times will yet come, and eventually the difficult times will only make us grow and thrive as we go forward.
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