By Rabbi Sonya Starr
Recent events reminded me that the months after 9/11 were filled with contention, fear, anxiety and confrontation. These feelings have been expressed to almost the same degree in the past couple of weeks. Hurricanes, forest fires, earthquakes, White nationalist rallies, mass shootings, and terrorist attacks fill the news and our consciousness. Schools, churches, and synagogues used to be places of refuge. Today there is no safe space. Cars and trucks used to be treasured tools of transportation. Today they have been turned into weapons of mass destruction. To put one’s head into the sand is as problematic as to live in complete fear. Unfortunately, during times of fear people become irritable, forget how to listen and compromise, are quick to judge and reminisce about the “good ole days”, the days when the world was safer and more predictable.
Finding one’s sea legs during times of difficulty is the gift that Judaism can give us. Does religion protect us like an invisible shield of armor? No, that would be dishonest. But community can catch us when we fall. Prayer can center us when we lose our footing. Song can lift our spirits. Learning can inform our thoughts and actions. Values can give meaning to our lives. But mostly wrestling with Gd enhances and strengthens our spirit.
In the book “The Days of Awe”, S.Y. Agnon writes, “Once our master, Rabbi Hayyim of Zans, told a parable: A person was lost for days in the forest and didn’t know which path to take. Suddenly, he saw another person approaching. His heart was filled with joy-now he would certainly find out the right path to take! When they met up with one another he asked the other person, “Please tell me, which is the right way? I have been wandering for several days.” Said the other, “I do not know the way either, for I, too, have been wandering for many days. But I can tell you for sure: do not take the way I have taken-on that path, one gets lost. Now let us look for a new way together.”