By Rob Goldberg
A young colleague recently said to me that she “hopes that we’ll be successful.” I suggested to her that to be effective we must be strategic and that hope is not a strategy.
While that may be true in a work context, hope is a concept and constant in Jewish literature, Mussar teaching and elemental to a Jewish way of life. The word hope, tikveh, comes from the root kava that describes the act of combining many strands into a single, much stronger cable. A Mikveh is also derived from the collecting sense of the word and literally means reservoir. Hatikvah, the national anthem of Israel is based on a 19th century Jewish poem by Naftali Herz Imber and means “The Hope.”
In Judaism, every Torah portion is paired with a passage from the Prophets (Haftarah), most of which carry a message linked to themes or events in the specific Torah reading. Sometimes, such as the Shabbat before Purim and the Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the prophetic reading relates to events in the Jewish calendar. Such is the case tomorrow morning when we chant the second of seven prophetic readings (Haftarot) that connect the deep sadness of Tisha B’Av (observed on August 10-11) with the coming New Year (which begins on Sunday evening, September 29); these powerful readings offer a message of consolation and hope.
The selection we hear tomorrow is from the prophet Isaiah (49:14-51:3). While the verses begin with a lament, the balance of the haftarah responds with positive, hopeful promises of a future redemption. Specifically, the first verses of Chapter 50 begin with a lack of hope, “a sense of being shut out of God’s concerns,” suggests Rabbi Dr. Gidon Rothstein, but the next set of verses see Isaiah boasting of his power to speak in a way that encourages others; that he is naturally endowed with the ability to hear God’s messages and to transmit them in an encouraging and invigorating way.
It’s easy to look around us and feel despair at all the brokenness in our world. But to keep living in a purposeful way, hope is essential and quintessentially Jewish. It is the essence of Israel at its core and, as the word itself suggests, is a way for us to gather our strength and cope.
Marketing Guru and Buffalo native Seth Godin sums it up this way: “Fear shows up unbidden, it almost never goes away if you will it to, and it’s rarely a useful tool for your best work. Hope, on the other hand, can be conjured. It arrives when we ask it to, it’s something we can give away to others again and again, and we can use it as fuel to build something bigger than ourselves.”