Dear Friends and Family:
This morning I sat with the Indiana University Hillel staff, as I do every Thursday morning, and discussed upcoming projects, programs, and various issues. I love these sessions. They remind me of Leadership Staff meetings at camp. In addition to the above mentioned topics we usually compose a blessing to be used at Shabbat dinner the next night. This week we talked about the Torah portion of the week, “Re'eh.” The scene is Moses speaking to the Israelites beside the Jordan River. This is the beginning of Moses’s farewell address. It's his last chance to impress upon his People the challenges that lie ahead and their responsibilities to follow the commandments. Moses begins by saying something to the effect of; 'See (pay attention). I place before you blessings and curses….” It goes on to encourage the Jewish People to follow God's commandments and in doing so, “Choose life.”
Our Shabbat prayer for this week focused on this notion of blessings and curses. We called the curses, “Challenges.” We wrote, “Each week during our time here at Indiana University, we benefit from blessing and face challenges. We pray that in the weeks to come we have the insight to appreciate the blessings in our lives, and the courage to face our challenges.” Sometimes, for me, it is easier to identify the curses, the challenges, than the blessings. It is easy to let the troubles of the world weigh you (me) down.
Look, I never comment on politics but suffice it to say that this is a depressing presidential election year. Our Democrat/Republican crippled government is cause for despair. Our conservative - to the point of nearly erasing the separation of church and state -State government is mind boggling. Brazil just threw out her President and over fifty percent of Brazilians surveyed expressed no faith in the former president’s replacement. The Olympics ended in a quagmire of US athletes lying to police after they drunkenly vandalized a gas station in Rio. I could go on and on.
So that's what I see each morning in the paper and each evening on the news. But this morning's brain storming session with the staff reminded me that I have to open my eyes (Re'eh means see!) to the blessings all around me. Off the top of my head...Juca and my family and friends, health, Bloomington, working with Jewish kids on campus, music, humor, jazz and an occasional sail on Lake Monroe. I could go on and on. I guess it's just that the blessings are not advertised as well as the curses. Good news doesn't sell newspapers, someone once said.
As a Jew, I can't simply not care about the world around me. As a person trying to remain sane, I have to keep some distance. So here's my revenge. I am going to keep on trying to do good deeds, be a good person, and help others whenever I can. I'll also continue to follow the events of the world even if I can't affect their outcome (except with my vote and an occasional march down Kirkwood Ave. in protest of something or other). But I'll appreciate that I can sit on my porch on my quiet street in this small city, play my banjo, watch the seasons change, and plan my next class. There are a lot of blessings in my life. I could go on and on.
PS. The High Holidays are coming up. Time to regroup, refocus, and renew. Also not a bad time to tally up those blessings and accentuate the positive… (eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, don't mess with Mister In-Between. Thank you Johnny Mercer)