Human attempts to peer into the future, to borrow a metaphor from philosopher J.L. Austin, are like a miner’s hat. A small area is illuminated in front of us so we can adjust our footing. Yet when we project far into the future, darkness reigns and the shadows deceive. The only way to know more of the future is to move forward; with each step the light advances and the next patch of ground becomes visible.
In spiritual life as we approach the New Year, the future is clearer to those who are moving forward. Pirke Avot teaches, “Who is wise? Haroeh et hanolad.” That can be translated as “one who sees what he brings into being.” Active agents have a better grasp on the future, because as they move into it, they also shape it.
Life presents endless impediments to motion. Growth is painful and difficult; we are tired, overburdened, stuck, sad, hapless, hopeless. But the future is unforgiving — it will come whether we stride into it or wait for it to wash over us. Rosh HaShanah is a new chance, a renewal, a beginning again. Stride forward and advance your light. Look, wonder, and walk into the New Year.
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow his teachings at www.facebook.com/RabbiWolpe.