|Fiddler on the Roof came back to town last month for a couple of weeks, and it reminded me of all those typically Jewish scenes where Tevye stops for a moment to complain to God about one thing or another. At one point he looks up at God (somehow God is always “up,”) and says, “Perhaps you could choose someone else for awhile?!”
Of course one of the things that distinguishes Reconstructionist Judaism from all other streams of Jewish life, is our unflinching commitment to the universality of holiness among all people and rejection of the idea of “exclusive chosenness” of the Jewish people. Yet for so many of us, when we speak of being “chosen” either as a people or as individuals, it is more a complaint in response to moments of pain, or loss or sorrow.
How often have you heard, “Why me?” when a sudden illness strikes, cancer is discovered, or a loved one dies unexpectedly? As a rabbi I wrestle with such questions in the lives of our community every month. For in truth, no one is exempt from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Regardless of how it might appear from the outside, there is no one I have ever met who has successfully tiptoed through life unscathed, to quietly arrive at the other side without experiencing pain, or grief, or loss. All of these are fundamental aspects of life itself.
Indeed, to be a religious person, a spiritual person, a person with faith that life has meaning and that it is our challenge to discover that meaning, is not to escape from the sorrows. It is rather to experience them as integral to our spiritual development, part of the deepening of the growing of our souls, each time an opportunity to turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones.
Often our greatest challenge is to be able to broaden our perspective on life in moments of trial so that we remember the joys we have as well. It is to recognize the blessings of family, and children, and sustenance, and opportunity that are at least equally present in our lives. I guarantee that nurturing an attitude of gratitude about our lives is one of the most powerful antidotes to self-pity and despair that I have ever seen.
Through all your joys and your sorrows please remember that you are part of a larger community. As representatives of that community we very much want to know about what goes on in your life.. Please call the office to tell us when you are sick, or having surgery, wrestling with a health challenge, having a baby, celebrating a life-cycle moment in joy and any other part of your life that you would like to have community support for. That is why we are here, and that is what being part of a community is all about.