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December 16, 2021

12/16/2021 01:52:47 PM

Dec16

Rabbi Hearshen

The world we are blessed to live in is a complicated and messy one filled with chaos. The world is not one that we control nor is it one that looks like the one we dream of. The reality is we are all forced to confront devastation on small and large levels. The darkness often comes from humankind and forces us to confront the societies we’ve built over the generations. This is the case in Oxford, Michigan where parents sent their children to school that day expecting to have dinner together with them that night. The actions of the gunman and his parents are not Divine and are not accidental. But they are actions that leave us grasping for direction and for hope. It leaves our world feeling cold and unwelcoming. At the same time, we have another type of devastating darkness that exists in our world: natural disasters. Hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, diseases and all other natural disasters are something beyond the control of humankind and yet we have a role to play in them.

This past week was a devastating one for a portion of the United States when tornadoes tore through their neighborhood. Lives were lost, people were injured and homes were obliterated. The agony and pain all around us are immense and we need to come to terms with how to live in such a world where such things can and do happen. It’s natural to want to assign blame at times like this. It’s natural to point fingers, but those fingers never get us anywhere other than further brokenness. Some will assign blame to God. People will falsely state that God chooses who lives and who dies and thus the tornadoes are an instrument of God here on earth. I remember a few years back, when we lived in Tampa, there was a hurricane and we were directly in the path of its destruction. At the last moment, it changed course and people made lavish declarations that God answered our prayers. Some asserted there was a Native American burial ground that protected us as the hurricane avoided the sacred land. I pointed out at the time that if God answered our prayers, what does that mean of those who bore the brunt of the power of the storm in our place? What does it mean when we assert that people are spared only to have others severely and catastrophically affected by the same storm? There is no answer to what I have asked here without painting an even starker picture.

But God is in the disasters and illnesses around us. God created a world that can destroy itself while at the same time can heal itself. Our world has diseases but also has medications created from the materials at our disposal. Our world is fallible but it is also repairable. It’s our faith in God and in humanity that propels our desire to repair the damage around us. It’s our faith that pushes us to do and be better. When we witness disasters, we can choose to sit on the sidelines or we can choose be part of the solution. We cannot ignore that a solid majority of the organizations that respond to tragedy do so from a religious point of view. The Red Cross and so many others are seeing the world through a religious lens, and as such, they see their role in healing the world’s pain. God is not in the destruction but in the response to the cries of hurt. On Rosh Hashana I spoke about the world of imperfection in which we live. Plato, the great philosopher, explained that perfection does not exist. People can envision/imagine anything and in their mind it can be “perfect.” But the moment the “idea” goes from being a thought to being a creation, it ceases to be perfect and is in fact imperfect. That is our world. It is one that was perfect when God thought of creating it, but when it went from thought to physical creation, it automatically became imperfect. We live with that imperfection side by side with a God who supports and guides us in our lives.

As Jacob laid on his deathbed, he was filled with concern about the future and how his legacy would be preserved. His sons came to his side and reassured him that they, the Israelite (Jewish) people, would continue his legacy. They assured him that in spite of iniquity and adversity, they would make it happen. We would become slaves in Egypt generations after his death. We would endure a struggle over the millennia and come out as a light onto the nations as we are today. The adversity was not something that Jacob wanted and not something that we needed… but we grew in spite of and from it. We were able to overcome those difficult times because of our faith and our hope. When we’re able to see more than the pain in our midst, and see deeper into the world, we’re able to have a richer sense of hope that tomorrow will be better than today. There will always be dark times and we will always contend with things we wish we didn’t have to but, if we remain a people of faith, we will make it to the other side. We must never lose sight of our tomorrows and our belief in humanity. God has our backs and is there to support and direct us as we navigate these waters that are often stormier than we would like them to be.

Please join us in assisting our fellow Americans, whose lives were devastated by the storms of last weekend, by contributing to our relief fund. We will use collected monies, on behalf of our community, to help with relief work. Also, please stay tuned for possible opportunities to help in the weeks and months ahead.

Sun, May 22 2022 21 Iyyar 5782