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i have hope

09/02/2020 12:24:01 PM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

Some wonder at that fact that I maintain hope, citing the conditions that surround us as cause to lose hope. I can certainly understand that question, as well as the desire for so many to find sources of hope, or examples that provide hope. They are all around us, but we are not attuned to them. 

I recently had the privilege to officiate at a Bar Mitzvah in a family’s back yard. The setting and attendance were certainly not what the family had envisioned when the date was set. Plus, the forecast for rain was a very real threat all week. That day the sun shone forth, as did, you’ll excuse the pun, the son. I shared an observation with the Bar Mitzvah boy that I now share with you. In 1492, as Spain expelled all the Jews from the country, a young boy gathered with a small minyan in a deep grotto to celebrate becoming a Bar Mitzvah, because it mattered. In April 1943, as the German army bombed the Warsaw ghetto, a young boy gathered with a small minyan deep underground to celebrate becoming a Bar Mitzvah, because it mattered. So too, on that Shabbat in 2020, a young boy gathered with a smattering of people in his back yard during the pandemic to become a Bar Mitzvah, because it mattered. That gives me hope.

Several weeks ago, a family chose to have a Hebrew naming ceremony for their first-born daughter, with a small gathering of family in the home, because it mattered to them. That gives me hope.

I was sent a photograph of a young woman sounding the shofar from the rooftop of her synagogue, because it mattered to her. That gives me hope.

It’s not that we were given lemons and chose to make lemonade. We’ve taken the challenges that we are facing and crafted creative responses. Judaism has always been that way. Our High Holy Day services will be unlike anything I have ever experienced, but we will make them work, because it matters to all of us.

The demands that God places upon us through the observance of mitzvot have been adapted or put aside when pikuah nefesh, mortal danger, arises. Yet we are still able to do what we can to help those less fortunate, to remember the stranger, for we were strangers in a strange land. The need remains; the delivery systems have changed to meet those needs. Because they matter.

We recently had a drive-in to distribute machzorim (the High Holy Day prayer books) to congregants, and in support of a call from a local charity for gently used coats, we conducted a drive-in coat collection simultaneously. People were able to remotely open their trunks without getting out of their cars and donate, because it mattered to them. We even sounded the shofar for all who desired so, as that ancient wake-up call resonates across the millennia.

These are just some of the reasons why I continue to have hope. It does not require rose-colored glasses, naivety, or ignoring anything happening around me. It does require the desire to create a better society, and the foundation for that desire is hope. Psalm 27, which we recite during this time of year, concludes with the following: Hope in God, strengthen your heart, and hope in God.

I have hope.

Tue, September 29 2020 11 Tishrei 5781