Facing new beginnings

September 2016

What a summer! So much was going on the past couple of months, it was hard to keep track. Besides the per-sonal experiences of catching up with friends, enjoying the beach, wandering through museums, trolling through beauti-ful gardens, and eating a lot of ice cream, there was also so much news to absorb about our country and the world: The presidential campaigns and party conventions, the Olympics, extreme weather, and frightening national and world terror attacks created an emotional roller-coaster ride that roiled my relaxing summer.

And so now we enter the fall with all its changes and new beginnings: preparing for a new school year, ushering in a new Jewish year, adjusting to the cooler temperatures and the leaves turning colors, and this year approaching the important presidential election. Feelings are always mixed as we approach transitions, especially to a season marked as this new one will be by the continuation of that sometimes frightening emotional roller-coaster ride.

Our tradition acknowledges and understands that we may be challenged by these ups and downs, not always confident as we anticipate the unknown mixed in with the familiar. Jewish custom provides an answer to help us embrace the seasonal shifts, how to cope with our fears and the anxiety of the unknown: an attitude of hope, a recognition of bless-ings, and a commitment to action.

We are in the midst of the Torah readings of the Book of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy is a book of transition designed to offer the final teachings to the generation of children of the Israelite slaves, those who are about to enter the Land of Israel. These teachings provide the motivation, the commit-ment to enter an unknown land and an unknown future. As we read in 30:19, in these final lessons Moses says, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day: I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life — if you and your offspring would live….”

The message remains the same for us as we face the unknown: be optimistic, choose life. President Obama’s “audacity of hope” is part of our Jewish tradition. We are, after all, the people of hatikvah, of hope, and our most familiar slogan is l’chaim, to life. We may feel fear during the most challenging of times, but we must always temper those feelings with an acknowledgment, a count-ing, of our blessings. This reflection on the gifts of life metaphorically fills our pockets so that as we struggle to keep our hope, our optimistic attitude during troubling times, we can dip into our “gratitude pocket” for strength.

Talk and reflection are important to buoy us emotionally when we face difficulties, but action is the most potent force to move us physically and spiritually; taking action is the remedy to fear. Judaism’s extensive system of mitzvot gives us a map for movement, a users’ manual that tells us what to do to mobilize and convert our inward fears to an outward solution.

Use this time to do a check-in for you and your family: What do I/we truly value, what makes me/us proud, what mitzvah can I/we do to add meaning and purpose to our lives. What do we need to do or to even turn off to assure the “audacity of hope” for ourselves, our family, and our community?

My prayer for all us at this time: May we begin the new season and the start of a New Year with strength and focus born of hope, blessings, and action.

An additional “attitude of gratitude” to Lori Fuchs Mey-ers, our amazing adult education chair, and her helper, Joan Bronspiegel Dickman, for an outstanding adult summer camp! Thank you both so much for enriching our lives! Also a big thanks to Derek Fields for his summer class on “Craft-ing a Personal Theology.” His teaching and facilitation cre-ated a meaningful experience for the students.

 

Sun, November 19 2017 1 Kislev 5778