"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." - Charles Dickens
We are currently in the period of the Omer, a well known period of mourning. We mourn for the students of Rabbi Akiva who died at this time. We mourn for the Jewish communities of Europe destroyed over the years during this season. We don't shave, we don't listen to music, we don't dance. We restrict our activities and joy, in recognition of the sad history of this period.
And yet Omer marks the transition from Pesach to Shavuot, two of the three happiest times we have in our calendar. And over the years, many joyous days have accrued during the Omer. We have just been through Yom HaAtzmaut, a day when we celebrate and thank G-d for giving us our state back after almost two thousand years. We are rapidly approaching Lag BaOmer. Soon afterwards, we will mark Yom Yerushalayim, the day that Israel's borders were rendered secure and that we returned to the ancient city so imbued with our history. This time feels incredibly happy. How can we mourn at such a time?
Life is rarely black and white, and that is particularly true now. As the world begins to rise after the enforced rest of the Coronavirus quarantines, as our government in Australia also begins to loosen restrictions slowly, we are forcibly reminded that even the most difficult of times highlight the wonder of our lives. True, we stay at home and cannot leave, true a dangerous disease stalks the world, but our community has come together. The Jewish people feel closer than they have in living memory. We didn't have our community celebrations and commemorations, as we have in past years, and yet, so many engaged so actively with our national days.
As we continue through these days, the best of them, and the worst, let us all try to focus on what has been good about them, as hard as it can be. Let us try to see them as something which has a positive edge, something which can be learnt from and grown from. Let them be a catalyst for the further positive development of our community.