As we begin the new year of 2018, it's important not only to look ahead but also to remember the past. In the words of Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, 'History never really says goodbye. History says, 'See you later'. That said, here are a few interesting events that occurred exactly 100 years ago, in 1918... Did you know?

January 8, 1918:
Mississippi became the first state to ratify the 18th amendment banning alcohol. One of the few religions that does not ban alcohol, Judaism actually views alcohol as a means for connecting to God. Obviously when abused it can have appalling results, but when used correctly it is a vehicle through which we can look past our external facade and into our deeper selves. From Kiddush on Shabbat to the Chupah at a wedding, from the Passover Seder to Havdalah at the end of Shabbat, wine plays a prominent part. The underlying reasoning for this is that God created everything for a purpose, and it is our job to find a good use for as many things as we can.

February 19-21, 1918:
The British capture Jericho, an ancient city in the Land of Israel. Their arrival heralded the formation of Mandate Palestine which ultimately led to the first Jewish State being formed in Israel in nearly two millennia. Jericho was also the very first city taken by the Jews in 1312 BCE, in a battle led led by Moses' student and successor, Joshua, after the exodus from Egypt. It then fell into the territory of the tribe of Benjamin, who also produced the very first King of Israel, King Shaul, who lived not far from Jericho.

March 11, 1918:
Moscow becomes the capital of the Soviet Union. While today we can take religious freedom as a given, for the next 70 years Russian Jews, and many others, suffered terrible persecution and an utter lack of religious freedom. Many activists, including many Chabad Chasidim, would risk their very lives to maintain clandestine Jewish schools, Synagogues and Mikvahs. Thanks to their unwavering dedication to Jewish life, when the Iron Curtain fell, many thousands of Russian Jews still had a strong connection to Jewish identity, faith, practice and tradition.

June 3, 1918:
The US Supreme Court overturns the federal ban on child labor in Hammer v. Dagenhart. While child labor might sound downright medieval, it was only with the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938 that child labor was finally banned in the US. In contrast to many of the civilization which they lived in, Jews were revolutionaries in the field of education and the overall idea of childhood. The original idea of a Bar and Bat Mitzvah, which is based on the idea that children must be cared for, educated and loved and not held to the same standards as adults until they reach adulthood, was nearly uniquely Jewish until quite recently.

November 6-28, 1918:
With the end of the 'War to end all wars', i.e. World War One, Europe took on a completely new look, with empires that had controlled huge territories for hundreds of years, such as the Habsburgs and Ottomans, vanishing into thin air. The republics of Poland, Austria, Germany, Hungary and others were created and the war officially ended on November 11. This in turn reconstructed the social fabric of hundreds of Jewish communities in the Jewish heartlands of Central and Eastern Europe, and ultimately led to their destruction and the holocaust in World War 2. The rebuilding and renaissance which the Jewish people have experienced is a true testimony to our quiet strength and resilience.

While it's very important to live in the present and make the best of each and every moment, appreciating the past can be a great way to do just that. They say that history is like a group of zeros. When standing alone they amount to nothing, yet when placed together with even one other number those zeros can amount to millions. History alone doesn't change the world, but if we use history as a guide which we use to appreciate our successes, learn from our mistakes and chart our future than history becomes very valuable indeed.

Rabbi Avrohom