Tishrei/Heshvan 5781 — September/Octoer 2020 Newsletter
Living This Moment
Sometimes in life, what seems impossibly true is just that. The surrealism of extraordinary events distracts us from the truth, but it does not obscure it. The extraordinary that we allow to permeate our experience may actually be closer to reality than we wish to admit. If only we had an opportunity to focus on living in each moment, whether mundane or fantastic . . . ! Especially, in a social and economic climate such as ours at the moment, this skill would only serve to lighten our burdens and lift our spirits.
In fact, at this time in the Jewish calendar, we are not just invited but actually commanded to engage in facing the extraordinary. Why do I say this? How many of us at a young age would have presumed that our lives would have turned out exactly as they have turned out? If we are lucky and live a relatively normal life, we rarely face these likely disappointments. Each of us knows the stinging pain of loss and probably have had to maneuver more than one monumental pivot to make things work out. Yet, facing these uncomfortable realities is actually what frees us of our anxiety and pain. Of course, I am not suggesting that we need to subject ourselves to the endless suffering of reliving traumas or reminders of our falling short in life. That would be purposeless and punitive; not at all reflective of our values or the meaning of this season.
To the contrary, the Jewish New Year and the holiday season of Sukkot entice us to step outside of ourselves, see the world around us beyond the surface for what it truly is, and then assess and reassess our path forward. This season provides us something woefully missing in our lives: permission. So often, we feel without the permission both to acknowledge the fragility of the state of our lives as well as the permission to make changes to our path moving forward.
Many years ago, someone offered me very plain yet powerful advice: Don’t make decisions at the end of the day; wait until the morning . . . and then, wait another day. They were not trying to make me hyper-cautious but rather help me realize that truth in times that are susceptible to an altered reality is no truth at all. In fact, we need some distance from moments of intensity to reflect and to make positive, meaningful decisions. I believe that this is partly why there are 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the Days of Awe. This respite allows us the chance to clear our minds and to make better choices in life.
There is no denying it: We are living in such a moment. The latter half of this year has been the late night when our mind wanders and fools us. Now is probably not the time to make quick, wrenching decisions. These days, nothing is perfect and, certainly, so much is not as it should be. Instead, we would be best served by being mindful and finding ways to be comfortable sitting with our discomfort. It’s reasonable to believe that there will be a dawn and a day after that. So, why not take our introspection this year very seriously, while allowing for some caution with our remedy?
This is a transformative moment for our era. So, too, will be our decisions on how to meet it. And yet, let us also acknowledge that this year’s High Holidays season is occurring in the midst of a fractured moment in time, whose crystal shards may not tell us all truths or reflect the moment accurately. Patiently being in this moment, holding onto the time-tested values and traditions gifted to us by our ancestors, is the remedy this year, not running to fix everything that seems awry as fast as we can.
Our task in this moment is to see what is right and wrong, and then to offer ourselves acceptance for our failings and grant the same to our loved ones and neighbors. In this season of forgiveness, I hope that you will offer me yours, despite any hurts that I may have caused you. If so, cleansed of our past transgressions, let us find the way forward together.
May we all find the courage and calm to sit in our discomfort and find enough of the truths in our lives to inspire us to begin again on a righteous path forward, all well and in the right time.
L’Shanah Tovah Tikateivu v’Moadim L’Simcha — May we be written for a truly positive year and may we be blessed to receive the Season of Joy (Sukkot) with good health and peace of mind . . . from me and from Sarah, Matan & Doron.
Rabbi Gerald R. Fox
© Rabbi Gerald R. Fox