Another year is drawing to a close and, unfortunately, these past few weeks have been emotionally wrenching. My thoughts are, especially, with the families of Newton, but this past year has seen tragedies near and far, in our own city of Seattle and in the lands of Israel or Syria among many others. Nothing can ever fill the gaping hole in the hearts and lives of those who have lost loved ones, and the rest of us are left with a mix of outrage, sadness and disbelief. Hurricane Sandy helped many more of our fellow citizens wake up to the threats of global warming while the man-made disaster of poverty still goes unmet.

Perhaps more than any time before I feel the power and relevance of a community such as ours; a community that dreams, practices and embodies a different vision for our world. Where there is division we practice understanding. Where there is hatred we practice love. Where there is neglect we practice support, and where there is violence we practice shalom. Far from becoming depressed or disillusioned in the face of so much pain and suffering, I feel strengthened in the mission of our community and the need for its presence in the world. I refuse to fall prey to cynicism or yield to anger, and persist in keeping an open heart; still holding the vision that, despite what the world is mirroring back to us, human consciousness continues to evolve beyond its current limitations.

This week, as this secular year draws to a close, we also completed our reading of the book of Genesis. As we do each time we conclude the reading of one of the books of the Torah, we exclaimed “chazak, chazak v’nit’chazek!” which could be translated as: “May we draw strength, may we be strengthened, may we grow in becoming increasingly strong.”

As the book of 2012 is now closing, may we all draw strength in our resolve to manifest a different world from every perceived set back. May we be strengthened in our spiritual practice, our affirming the One Presence in every one, in every place and every moment by each other’s presence in this precious community of ours. Lastly, may we grow increasingly strong by personally becoming increasingly soft, loving and transparent in 2013.