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“Storm Tossed” Rabbi Zecher’s Shabbat Awakenings

Friday, August 6, 2021

Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we draw near to Shabbat.

In the summer of 2005, Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans and its environs.  Almost 2000 people died.  It ravaged the landscape and changed lives forever.  When we arrived to Shabbat that year, we turned to the designated reading not just from the Torah but also from the prophet Isaiah.  His words were prescient for the moment though it was originally meant for the despondent exiles in Babylonia.

Unhappy, storm-tossed one, uncomforted. (Isaiah 54:11)

The image of the storm and the uncomforted and unhappy victims of it made an ancient reading immediately applicable to the very experience of thousands living such trouble from a hurricane and its consequences in our own time.

This week, we arrive again to the same reading.  This week, this summer, this year, Covid has tossed us into unhappy and uncomforted circumstances.  We finally started to feel like we might be able to re-establish a routine and resume some semblance of predictability.  The Delta variant has tossed us some more.  Options are no longer an option.  Masks and vaccinations are required.  But the uncertainty of safety and risk remain.  We are storm tossed once again.

Isaiah doesn’t stop there.  As he spoke to the forlorn, he tried to lift their spirits with the hope that they would return to Jerusalem, once destroyed, but with their help could be rebuilt.  He prompted and urged them to imagine what might be positively possible.

I am about to lay your stones with turquoise.

And I will set your foundations with sapphires

And make your battlements rubies

And your gates of precious stones

And all your walls of exquisite gems. (54: 11-12)

He painted a picture of rebuilding the Temple again with shiny and sparkling images to draw out their imaginations.  In dark times, Isaiah spoke of light.  We could use some of that glistening and shimmering for ourselves these days.

Yet, Isaiah’s hope did not have certainty only possibility.

And all your children shall be disciples of the Eternal,

And great shall be the happiness of your children.  (54: 13)

His focus that there will be a next generation who will rely on the previous generation to ensure that there is future helped to define hope.  Those in despair and in troubled times need the reminder that their ability to persevere is not just for themselves.  It is for the generations after them and us.  There will be those who come after us who will inherit the legacy we leave them.

We may feel tossed and lack comfort or even joy in these days, but hope and happiness await and is possible for us.

I end with this poem by Amir Or:

And even so, Life; and even so Love.

We will yet see the gateway of the heart

We will open up to a world of Hope.

We will tread again its paths, astonished by its beauty

Our spirits clear and tranquil.

We will yet see the morning rise,

The dawn of humanity draws near.

Shabbat Shalom!

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