This week alone we have read about a school shooting in Nashville, mass protests in Israel around agonizing and anti-democratic proposals, tainted drinking water in Philadelphia, the continued escalation of violence in Ukraine and a tornado that brought havoc to many residents of Mississippi. All of this, on top of the realities we have come to live with: widespread antisemitism, untold frustration with Congress, a natural world waning everyday and the fallout from a seemingly endless pandemic.
How do we even get out of bed these days? Where do we find the courage to face these trying times? Where do we go with our anger, our pain, our sadness, our confusion?
I have written before about the tools we Jews have long called upon in moments of distress: community, prayer, right action, advocacy, giving tzedakah and/or drawing on the wisdom of our ancient and modern sages. I would encourage you to go to such places, as they might place a balm on your ailing heart. These tools have helped our people for generations, granting them perspective and healing when we have needed it most. Perhaps they will do the same for you.
Here is another place I am turning to this week especially: This Shabbat morning, our middle child, Elijah, will be called to the Torah as a Bar Mitzvah. Lisa and I are so proud of him. He’s smart, funny, hardworking and kind. To become a Bar Mitzvah just months after a major move was no small ask, but Elijah has handled his preparations with grace and fortitude. When I stand with him at the front of the congregation, not only will I feel such incredible joy for him and our family, but I will remember the great beauty and happiness that life can offer. It will be a day predicated fully on joy and thus a much-needed respite from the harsh news we often confront these days.
I believe that, more than ever, we need to treat simchas with reverence and importance. When life is hard, when our spirit is tired, we need to be reminded that it is indeed a blessing to be alive. We need to be reminded as well that Jewish life goes on, no matter the news or current events. We keep turning to the Torah. We keep celebrating our milestones. We keep reminding ourselves that life is sweet and it’s a blessing to be here. There is beauty in our world, even when it’s hard to see it.
I am so heartened by our young ones these days especially. I have the great gift of spending my Tuesday nights with our teens at Quest Noar. They are bright, compassionate and eager to bring change to our broken world. They give me hope. I feel the same way when I’m on the bimah with our B’nei Mitzvah or when I’m with our young ones on Sunday morning. Our kids remind me – and all of us – that tomorrow can be a better day. I pray that tomorrow will be one – please God – of greater peace, greater compassion and greater understanding.