January 2018, Happy New Year

Dear Friends,

An independently certifiably wise man who happens to be my father-in-law, recently sent me an article from the New York Times entitled “Why 2017 Was the Best Year in Human History”

The optimism I admit, I initially found rather shocking. We live in a world where so much suffering abounds; in Myanmar, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, and in the slums of every major city.

Global politics seem as dangerous as ever. During the Cold War there were only two powers involved in a nuclear standoff. Now potentially it is a nuclear orgy with characters like Trump and Kimmy as the chief protagonists. Knowing that at least one of them belongs in an institution and very possibly both, is deeply unsettling.

Buying a home for the younger generations seems now like a faraway dream even in the most affluent societies like ours. And the Australian ODI performance against England, has created great disillusionment in the dream of better times.

We are continuing to wreck our environment in the name of short-term profitability and we have seemingly moved backward on all social justice issues. Fear and hate seem to be winning almost every argument.

Despite all this we have probably just experienced the best year in human history. I guess the glass is half full and half empty at the same time without any contradiction, the question is merely of focus. Most of the time we focus on the journey we must yet undergo to become truly evolved beings. We bring into sharper focus those areas we see as wanting with the intention to propel us yet further into progress. And so we survey the scene and reflect on what’s wrong and channel our energies to make it better.

But there is another feel-good perspective we must periodically indulge. That perspective is the simple truth that in comparison with our predecessors we suffer a lot less. As Kristoff puts forward in the article, “every day, the number of people around the world living in extreme poverty (less than about $2 a day) goes down by 217,000. And 300,000 more gain access to clean drinking water. Just since 1990, the lives of more than a 100 million children have been saved by vaccinations, diarrhoea treatment, breast-feeding promotion and other simple steps”

And of course we are more generally far less bigoted, chauvinistic, and savage today than we ever were. A woman and expecting mother is prime minister next door in awesome New Zealand, the African slave trade is essentially gone, and we no longer allow the British queen to chop heads off, quarter their bodies, and expose their internal organs.

We must therefore dedicate days in the year to celebrate these huge achievements. For many it is understandably New Year, for others it is Rosh Hashana, for others yet it is actually Purim – the day we are commanded to indulge.

With this in mind it has been decided that for the first time in ARK history we will focus on putting on a Purim party for adults only. We will have live music till midnight at least with DJs playing till the last person left standing. You must bring your dancing shoes, invite anyone you think is interested in a good time, and buy a ticket from the link on the attached flyer.

It is not my habit to use this forum to promote activities at the ARK but in extreme cases we must make exceptions. Since this is going to be the best party in a long time and as discussed above we have serious reason for celebration, I feel it only right for me to scream it out from the rooftops to ensure that it reaches as many as possible.

The order of the night will be great music, a busy dancefloor, food and drink to lubricate and energise, just like we used to before we became serious. And the best part about it is that it is our religious obligation to party as hard and as long as possible! For those with kids get babysitters, for those with inflexible work you may need sick leave on Friday or if you work in an enlightened workplace, leave on religious grounds.

Sometimes people ask me why I’m a religious Jew. I often think of very complicated answers but the truth is it could be answered in one word, Purim. How can you not get behind a religion that sees it as religious duty to at least one day a year celebrate our lot in life by partying till you drop?

Thursday 1st March 7.30pm till very very late. See attached flyer for further details and feel free to pass it on as widely as possible. See you all there!!!

Happy New Year and Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Shneur