Thought for the Day: Shavuot 2022
“We can channel resilience and fortitude to create a more optimistic future.”
Earlier this week, in the BBC documentary ‘Elizabeth: The Unseen Queen’, Her Majesty the Queen said, “To look back is not necessarily nostalgic.” And then she added, “Winston Churchill, my first Prime Minister, said that the further backward you look, the further forward you can see.”
This idea is central to the Biblical concept of the Jubilee, introduced in the Book of Leviticus, which declares, “You shall proclaim freedom throughout the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you.”
Taking place only once every fifty years, the Jubilee was a major agricultural and societal event, providing a rare opportunity for the nation to take stock of what it had achieved and how far it had come.
When Her Majesty the Queen ascended the throne in 1952, we were still recovering from the devastation of war. Many of our major cities lay in ruins, rationing was still in place and housing was in short supply. Yet, the nation rallied, and as it did so, it drew inspiration from the devotion and unflinching sense of duty of the Monarch. Through seven momentous decades, the Queen has been an extraordinary rock of stability and constancy within rapidly changing times. She has been the very embodiment of British values, an indomitable leader, an ambassador for all we hold dear.
Yet, a Jubilee means more than nostalgic reminiscing. The renowned 12th Century Rabbi and philosopher, Maimonides, pointed out that the Hebrew for ‘Jubilee’, ‘Yovel’, is linked etymologically to the words for yielding one’s crop and delivery. He taught, therefore, that a Jubilee period must culminate in something of value; it must deliver a society to a place where it had not previously been. It must recall the past for the sake of the future.
The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee takes place in the context of profound global adversity. Still reeling from the pandemic, our fragile world is now contending with war, economic hardship and climate change. The Jubilee provides an opportunity to set these challenges in the broader context of the Queen’s lifetime. Just as she has seen our world prevail over conflict and suffering in the past, we can do so again. We can channel the resilience and fortitude for which she is famed, to create a more optimistic future.
This weekend’s rare unifying impact can evoke an enduring sense of pride and purpose to inspire us to navigate difficult times together. By harnessing the national mood, may every one of us be blessed, in The Queen’s own words, to “look to the future with confidence and enthusiasm.”