As we approach the threshold of the New Year, I have been reading many predictions about what 2017 may have in store for us and the world. But is it really wise to try to predict the future? The future has been defined as something that everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever one does, whoever one is. But there has always been a vast curiosity to know the future before we get there.
Every day millions of Americans read their astrological horoscopes in the newspaper to learn what the planets have in store for them. Astrology is a popular occupation in America today, in which thousands of people are employed full time. We consult the stars, palm readers and crystal balls in an effort to part the curtain that veils the future. I once saw a cartoon in which a young girl was reading her diary to her friend. The girl commented: “This is one book where I wish it were possible to peek in the back and see how it all comes out.”
Even Jacob in the Bible, third patriarch of the Jewish people, attempted for a fleeting moment to unravel the secrets that are hidden in the womb of time. As he lay on his deathbed, he gathered his children and said to them: “Come together that I may tell you what is to befall you in days to come.” (Genesis 49:1)
As we read further into the story, however, there are no predictions of things to come. And the rabbinic sages point out that although Jacob wanted to foretell the future, the Divine Presence departed from him. God apparently did not want the future to be revealed. But what was God’s reasoning?
If you and I knew what was going to happen tomorrow and the day after and on all the days to come, wouldn’t life lose much of its zest and excitement? A terrible boredom might even set in as we mechanically play out the roles that have been predetermined and foretold for us. And if we knew in advance the disappointments and broken dreams and sorrows that awaited us, could we find the courage to even venture into the future at all?
But the most compelling reason no one can predict the future is that the future does not actually exist. According to Judaism, we all have the freedom of will to determine the shape of tomorrow by what we do today.
The American historian James Truslow Adams put his finger on the truth when he said that while an astronomer can predict precisely where every star will be at 11:30 tonight, he can make no such predication about his young daughter.
What the future has in store for us depends largely on what we place in store for the future. Only our actions — not the stars nor the cards — will determine the shape of things to come.
Several years ago, I read a quote on a wall in the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv that has greatly influenced the way I live my life. The quote was attributed to an anonymous survivor of a World War II German concentration camp.
“REMEMBER THE PAST, LIVE THE PRESENT, TRUST THE FUTURE”
Our lives are enriched when we recall and honor the past and those who came before us, when we live each day to its fullest and do as much good as we can, and when we have faith in the future.
May the coming year bring you happiness and fulfillment, health and well-being, tranquility and peace.