Last summer our Flourishing Circle explored a different positive emotion each week, putting psychological perspectives into dialogue with Jewish wisdom. Nine months later, I'm still reflecting on our conversation about hope!
This is how Dr. Barbara Fredrickson understands hope: "Deep within the core of hope is the belief that things can change. No matter how awful or uncertain they are at the moment, things can turn out better. Possibilities exist. Hope sustains you. It keeps you from collapsing into despair. It motivates you to tap into your own capabilities and inventiveness to turn things around. It inspires you to plan for a better future" [Positivity].
As we enter the Passover narrative, it is hope that helps us walk - one step at a time - through the sea of uncertainty. Hope accompanies us out of Egypt and to the other side.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks taught the Exodus from Egypt as one of the great literatures of hope: "Optimism and hope are not the same. Optimism is the belief that the world is changing for the better; hope is the belief that, together, we can make the world better...It needs no courage to be an optimist, but it takes a great deal of courage to hope" [To Heal A Fractured World].
This Passover the world is giving us plenty of reasons for despair. It is a challenging time for optimism, which makes it a critical moment for hope. Luckily, we have a beloved ritual to guide and inspire us when we approach the end of the Seder and open the door for Elijah.
As we stand up from the table, walk over to the door, and open ourselves to the world around us, may we begin tapping into our own capabilities and planning for a better future.
With the doorknob in our hand, may we pause for a beat before we twist it, so that we may courageously imagine ourselves building a brighter, more loving world world on the other side of the threshold.
May we discover new sources of hope and sweetness this Passover.
May we have moments of playful imagination.
May we find more freedom in our own lives and share that freedom with those who need it most.
Sending love and hope,
Rabbi Bethie Miller