Have you ever had to borrow a flame from a neighbor on Yom Tov because yours has gone out? You carry your candle to a house nearby, hoping someone is there to offer you theirs. And then you walk back home, slowly and carefully with your hand cupped around a tiny flame, so that—in spite of the elements working against you—you can take it home and make it yours.
This what hope is like. Through generations and communities before of us, there are those who were driven by hope to bring light into the world and then share it so that others can carry that light forth. It’s small and fragile but if you capture it in your hands, you can make it yours and fuel it until it blazes.
It’s one of the most elemental Jewish concepts to hope for a better, more perfect future for all.
Hope is also American. We have a positivity that we carry around as our birthright. It’s what drove our forefathers to cross the sea and begin anew, against all odds. And it’s what made all of our immigrant relatives take a chance at a new life.
Hope is what is behind the start of every movement for change in America by those willing to risk it all. It’s behind the emancipation of slavery, behind the voting act, the civil rights act, the women’s movement and every force of progress in the long march toward equality. It’s a mandate first sparked by the Jewish people, whose job it is to teach the world about hope—that all men and women are God’s children, endowed with certain inalienable rights.
All those who carried the flame of hope before us allow us to enjoy liberties we may not even notice. We have the right to free education, no matter your skin color or gender. We have the right to live where we want, be who we want and say what we want. None of that is a given.
But like the flame, hope is fragile. So too the rights that we hold dear in America, the very fabric of what makes up our country, is fragile.
There are always those limited in imagination, comfortable in their position of power, who are afraid of change. They’ll use euphemisms to make you think they too want progress, but really what they want is to remain the same. The slogan of the president is a perfect example of longing for a time in the past, where the position of the white male in power was standard and few had the might to threaten it.
So as you go head out into the world, my charge to you is this:
Read. Question. Know your source and the biases that come with it. Sort out what is true and then find Your truth. And as you search, seek out the wisdom of women. It’s true what the Sages say about the wisdom of women. Don’t try a belief, slogan or hat, for that matter, on for size just because others are doing so.
Chart your course and change the world. God knows we need it.