With the last of the Hanukkah candles, we enter the New Year of 2017. It is good to have the memory of Hanukkah with us as we begin to make our way. It is good to enter the new year having just experienced eight days of the warmth, camaraderie, courage and yes – light – that Hanukkah offers. All of these elements, and so many more, we desire in the coming year.

We enter the year with apprehensions and with hopes. Alongside our concerns about the state of our world and what the coming year might bring, we have uplifting aspirations and dreams. This coming year offers us an opportunity to work toward bringing those dreams closer to fulfillment. We might grumble about this or that, we might complain or hold our head in exasperation and perhaps even despair about a host of matters. Pick a broad topic (politics, ecology, economy, health, civil society) or even a narrow one (the price of gasoline, a rude neighbor) – at least some of the time, a good grumble is perfectly understandable. But after the kvetch, it’s time to decide whether we are going to get to work. Will we promote the results we wish to see, or just complain?

If we want more than a cathartic moment, then 2017 will offer us ample opportunities to engage in meaningful ways. Whether it’s reaching out to an estranged family member or someone in our community, or writing a letter to the editor, or getting involved in local politics, or volunteering for an important cause, there are opportunities – ones that do no involve posts on Facebook or Twitter – to participate in bringing about the future we hope will come.

On a local, national and even international level, there is a part for each one of us to play in creating a better 2017. We won’t do it alone, of course. Only many, many individuals, acting together and in a sustained way, standing up to antithetical forces and objectives, ever turns the tide. Add your particular light to the causes you care about, join forces with others, and you will be part of something bigger than yourself: an experience far more satisfying than even a really good kvetch.

As the Hanukkah song Banu chosheh legaresh proclaims:

“We come to chase away the darkness; in our hands are light and fire. Each one of us is a small light, but all of us together are a mighty light. So flee darkness and night! Flee before the light!”

In 2017, may our collective light burn brightly and persistently, and illuminate the way toward a healthy, kind, safe and inspiring tomorrow.

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