I’m tired. As a congregational rabbi, still in the throes of the fall holy day season, it’s logical. But I’m also tired for the same reasons as everyone else. Devastating hurricanes, devastating earthquakes, devastating flooding on the other side of the world, a devastating mass murder…. and I might be missing something.
We are exhausted, our philanthropic dollars tapped out, and we know that all of these catastrophes will have lasting effects on thousands upon thousands of people. Where I live in Florida, we now are hearing a lot about Puerto Rico but nothing about Houston’s clean-up efforts after Hurricane Harvey, but I feel certain that their work also will continue for months and years.
This morning, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons was announced as the recipient of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. The group was recognized “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.”
Its uplifting acronym, ICAN, is aspirational but, I fear, unrealistic.
Too often, the world can feel more like a place where I can’t wins over I can. As in, I can’t see how on God’s green earth we are going to be able to fix all the things that need fixing.
But I found solace in the oddest place. It was my on Facebook page, in the comments after I posted a message about guns.
The conversation almost immediately became divisive and derisive, unkind and uncivil. People who I don’t even know wrote comments that were rude and angry, filled with facts that may or may not be accurate. Each side was tone deaf, and seemed unwilling to even try to hear the other.
And then something strange happened. People who disagreed with each other found common ground. It wasn’t major, nothing significant. But these tiny steps, on one tiny page of the billions on Facebook, gave me hope.
The Jewish community is still observing the fall holy days. This week we are celebrating Sukkot, the festival of booths, which is also called Z’man Simchateynu, the time of our rejoicing. Along with rejoicing in all that is good, we acknowledge the fragility of life by building temporary huts alongside our homes.
A succah is more than temporary – it is purposely unfinished, with only three walls and a roof that is incomplete and open to the sky. The result is that we can feel the rain and see the stars. And yet we are supposed to welcome guests, have festive meals, even sleep there.
To me, the message is one of hope. Even at the darkest of times, when rain pours in uncontrollably and everything seems hopeless, we can still band together, help each other, feed each other, lift each other up.
Yes, I’m tired. We all are. And even so, even now, we have the ability – the responsibility – to reach out with our words, with our money, with our deeds.
Chag sameach, may it be a joyous holiday, and Shabbat shalom,