The Purpose of Hope (June 2013)

June 1, 2013
By bethmordecai
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The Purpose of Hope (June 2013)

 “The purpose of our life is happiness for a simple reason…our existence is based on hope”

-the Dalai Lama

Hope is one of the most beautiful four letter words written in the English language. It’s a word that has inspired political campaigns, social movements, and, as the Dalai Lama points out,[1] our simple pursuit of happiness. It’s a word that many of us use when we look into the future and believe in our heart of hearts that the future is going to be better than our past or our present. It’s a word that speaks to the promise of eternity placed in the yearning of our hearts.

Yet, hope can also be a dangerous word. Flung around carelessly, it wields a destructive power to close our eyes and numb our senses to our reality. Our desire for things to be good, our hope for the future, is such a basic part of our humanity that we often do not know how to wield its power effectively. We – as a people and as a congregation – must have hope, but we must not also be blind.

The Hebrew word for hope is one that most if not all of you are aware of: tikvah — as in “Hatikvah,” the national anthem for the State of Israel. It’s no coincidence that the State of Israel uses this powerful word for its seminal message that Israel is the realization of a dream: “a hope not yet lost” (od lo avdah tikvatenu) of the Jewish people to reclaim our sovereignty in our ancient homeland. That phrase, “a hope not yet lost,” connotes the tenuousness embedded in the cosmic nature of the creation of Israel. We have for millennia yearned for and desired a home of our own in a land that connects us as a people to God, even in times when the prospect of such a homeland seemed impossible. Imagine the despair and hopelessness of the Jews who witnessed the sacking of their glorious city in 70 CE, or were forced to abandon their faith in the Inquisition of 1492, or had to bury countless dead after the Chmielnicki Massacres of 1648-1649.[2] Even in this last century which witnessed the birth of our Jewish State, how far the idea must have seemed to inmates in Auschwitz and Majdanek!

Yet even when it seems that we should have lost hope, we have always said “od lo”…not yet. We continued the seemingly impossible march toward our homeland with only our prayer of “Next Year in Jerusalem” at the end of the seder to give us hope. Yet it did, and we have tasted from the fruits of that success for the past 65 years.

That is not to say though that just because hope may be bathed in irrationality, its fulfillment must also be as well. On the contrary, a quick glance at the Zionist leaders who shaped Israel reveal the realpolitik enmeshed within the creation of the political entity known as the State of Israel. On June 20th, we will have a special opportunity to learn more about one of these practical, yet tragic events at the home of Avi and Marsha Duvdevani who will host a screening of the Altalena Affair: The Untold Story of the Israeli Civil War [3] (along with TERRIFIC food from Eddie’s Falafel [4]). This documentary, which will be aired on the 65th anniversary of the event, is a reminder that we do not live in a world of just hope. Hope won’t tell us the locations of the pitfalls or the pots of gold.  To do that we need a good head on our shoulders with our eyes open to the possibilities and the realities in front of us.

Perhaps the incompleteness of hope is why its root k-v-h is found in the word “mikvehmeaning “ritual bath.” When one converts or wishes to be purified, we dunk ourselves into a living body of water to come out anew. Perhaps hope is like the water of the mikveh, refreshing us with its promise of perfectibility and purity. We don’t live in the water because that’s not where life happens, yet without that water to sustain ourselves we would not be able to exist.

May our lives, our families, and our community be continually refreshed with the waters of hope so that we can turn that hope into a living reality.

Kol Tuv,

Rabbi Ari Saks


[1] Click here for a link to a clip from the Dalai Lama’s speech:



[2] Click here for more information on the Chmielnicki Massacres:



[3] Click here for a Facebook invitation to the program at Avi and Marsha’s home:



[4] If you reserve a spot at the event via the Facebook invitation above, you will be entered into a raffle for a FREE meal at Eddie’s Falafel: 

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