We've made it to 2024. After a year which brought so much pain for the Jewish people, from Israel to the Ivy Leagues, a new era begins.

Time, they say, is like a spiral staircase. We go round and round through cycles on the calendar, but with each loop we can - we must - climb higher. But how do we climb from here?

If we were to combine all the horrific words we've had thrown at us in the past months - words like kidnapped, murdered, burned, tortured, abused - into one, that word might be 'inconceivable'.

The horrors we've witnessed - from the October 7th atrocities, as if plucked out of a history book on Auschwitz or Treblinka, to the antisemitism which rages in its aftermath - were hitherto inconceivable, unfathomable, absurd. Such evil should not exist. It does not add up, compute or make sense on a logical level. Some might explain it, but it still doesn't add up.

Like a black hole which punctures space time, these terrible events ruptured much of our pre-October 7th understanding as to how our world and societies function.

Where do we go from here?

For one, we can remind ourselves that evil does not have a monopoly on the word 'inconceivable'. The choice in our world is not between ordinary, narrow and restrained goodness, happiness and positivity, or inconceivable evil and hardship. Goodness, happiness and positivity can be inconceivable, too. If anything, the 'inconceivability' of the good side is far stronger than the dark.

The Talmud (Ketubot 17a) tells us a story in this regard. In the heyday of Babylonian Jewry, in the forth and fifth centuries, it was customary for leaders of the community to attend weddings and celebrate with the bride and groom who were starting their new life together.

The Talmud writes about a well known sage in Babylon at the time, Rav Shmuel bar Rav Yitzchak was his name, who took his rejoicing with the bride and groom to the next level. This venerable sage would put on a spectacular juggling show for them.

One of the other leading Jewish scholars at the time, Rabbi Zeira, had a hard time with this. It's wonderful for the Jewish sages to want to stop by a wedding and wish the bride and groom a hearty Mazal Tov, thought Rabbi Zeira. But juggling shows? 'The old man is humiliating us!' Rabbi Zeira said of Rabbi Shmuel bar Rav Yitzchak and his juggling show.

When Rav Shmuel bar Rav Yitzchak passed away, something spectacular happened at his funeral. A pillar of fire appeared, and stood between the casket and those attending the funeral, not letting anyone get close. It was as if to say, this is a holy individual, everyone stand back.

Most at the funeral could not understand why this was happening. This was an era filled with holy, lofty individuals, yet pillars of fire appearing to protect them at their funerals was not your everyday occurrence.

There was one man there who understood. It was Rabbi Zeira. He watched the miraculous scene unfolding before his eyes, and his mind went back to the wedding with Rav Shmuel bar Rav Yitzchak wildly juggling.

Rabbi Zeira looked at the fire pillar and said: The old man's 'nonsense' is what did this. He wasn't just kind to people, be it a bride, groom or anyone else. He was inconceivably kind, unfathomably kind, absurdly kind. Yes, it looked funny for the leading Rabbi to be juggling. But it made the young couple happy, did it not? It took their happiness to new heights, 'inconceivable' heights, seeing a venerated community leader so thoroughly and sincerely invested in their joy. So juggle he did.

There is so much good we can do, which can be held back due to 'inconceivability'. Ancient, timeless Jewish goals like filling the world with light, making the world a truly loving, happy, peaceful place, and letting every person shine is his or her own, unique way, seem inconceivable. Sure, we'll hear those words repeated, we might even say them ourselves, but to really believe them to be true, to be attainable? Inconceivable.

2023 taught us that those lofty ideals are not inconceivable. If evil can be inconceivable, so can we. We can be proudly, joyfully Jewish, in a world where it at times that seems inconceivable. We can be loving, caring, genuine, generous and kind, in a world where it at times that seems inconceivable.

We can celebrate our priceless Jewish heritage for being the goldmine that it is, share it with our family and friends, and remember that the world will have nothing but respect for it. We can celebrate our eternal, precious bond with the Land of Israel, in a world where it at times it seems inconceivable. The world will have nothing but respect for that, too.

Rabbi Avrohom