On Yom Kippur, the High Priest, Cohen Gadol, would enter the Holy of Holies. His short prayer included a request of God to ignore the rain-related prayers of travellers.
The priests knew that it is human to selfishly wish for sunny weather when you are riding your donkey to Jerusalem—or when you’re at the cottage—if rain was needed, as it often was in the semi-arid climate. Now that we no longer have a High Priest, it is up to us to be the responsible adults, and we need our modern day leaders, too, to be thinking of the common good.
Jews have survived by building strong families and cohesive communities. We are good in those dimensions: a good education, strong institutions—for our own children, for our own people. That is excellent. It is a good thing that we have survived and flourished.
However, COVID has reminded us that it is not enough to think about our own. Many of us have worn masks and gotten vaccinated to protect each other and our healthcare system, but then we were also reminded that pandemics know no borders and we should be sharing our stash of vaccine with other countries to reduce the opportunity for new variants to emerge. Similarly, we are discovering that climate change is a global predicament: deadly heat waves are not restricted to distant continents, destructive storms do not only hit southern islands, drought and crop failure affect Canadian farmers and consumers too, wildfires rage not only in California. Living this far north, like having our Great Lakes and our own strong communities, are not enough to keep us safe.
Perpetuating the status quo will not do in a changing world; deferring action to “later,” though convenient, is no longer a viable option. In the approaching municipal election, it is time to vote for candidates who do not bury their heads in the sand and do not disrespect our intelligence by trying to lure us with promises of selfish gain or convenience: better roads are nice but we need them to be safe, and we all must figure out how to drive much les; clean parks are lovely, but when the unhoused are hounded out of parks into isolated ravines as housing becomes less and less affordable, our city is neither caring nor truly safe. We need a police force that will be helpful to all minorities, not just to us the Jews; we need our conservation areas intact and wetlands restored, not sold off into warehouses, if we are not to shortchange our children’s future.
On Oct. 24, let’s make sure to get out and vote, and let’s check out the fresh faces running to represent us on Council and as mayor. The time has come for leaders who will indeed lead, with courage, integrity and responsibility for the best possible long-term outcomes for the entire community. The current debates in the city are critical for the shape of the society that we live in, and we need our municipality to work towards a stronger,sustainable and ethical future where no one is left behind.
Miriam Sager is an Israeli-Canadian who lives in Hamilton, works at SACHA (sexual assault centre) and believes that “time is short and the task is great” (Rabbi Tarfon).