Dearest friends,

As we bring in the first day of a new year I’m thinking about what it means to say good-bye to the old and welcome in the new, setting an intention to live a certain way… and then sticking with it.The Talmud tells the story of what happens as the sun sets on a week, and people walk home from shul on Friday night. Two angels (wait for it – a good and a bad one) follow them, and peek into their window. If it looks warm and inviting inside –  candles aglow, the table set for Shabbat – the good angel says “May it be like this for you all the time!” And the bad angel has to say “Amen!”

But if there is fighting and negativity, no candles, no set table, the angels are reversed. The Bad angel gets to say, “May it be like this for you all the time!” And the good angel has to respond, “Amen.” Ouch.

Our lives are a series of snapshots in time. Freeze the frame on any moment – which angel is doing the blessing? What would it mean for them to bless that we should keep going the way we’re going?

Over this past year maintaining high morale was hard for a lot of us. But as we bring in 2018, I think back on all the individual moments of shining beauty I saw, and I feel pretty confident that the angels of our better nature will be hard at work. This past year our Refugee Welcome Team gave hundreds of hours to help the Alhamadas and Al Obaidi families build homes and lives in Chicago. We showed up for one anothers’ shivas and baby namings and b’nai mitzvahs– not because we all necessarily knew each other, but because that’s what our community does. You showed up for classes on Shabbat observance and Talmud, interfaith relationship building, Conscious Couple-hood, emotionally intelligent parenting, Jewish mourning practices, and a reading groups on wise aging. Our holistic wellness center, Maggie’s Place, sprang from idea into reality, touching hundreds of people in its first year. The Mensch Academy doubled in size, connecting the next generation with a Judaism that inspires the soul and asks big questions. To gather with you every other Friday night and sing our hearts out – I felt the good angel teaching the bad angel to dance. Every Friday night I felt the feeling of “May it be like this all the time.”

As many of us consider resolutions for 2018, I want to offer the blessing to you that this be a year of snapshots featuring generosity, learning, and human connection. For some you’ll be in the foreground, some in the background. For some you’ll be posing the shot, for some you’ll be behind the scenes. During these moments let the forces of negativity around us capitulate, so that we can hear all the angels singing, “May it be like this for you all the time!”

Here’s to an awesome 2018,

Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann and everyone at Mishkan