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They Can Never Take Our Spirit

05/21/2020 09:00:54 AM

May21

Rabbi Sam Trief

“During the Hurricane Harvey recovery, we were visiting with this beautiful older couple who had to be evacuated by boat. The wife was on dialysis, and her husband felt helpless as the house he had helped build flooded. Yet while we were sitting and speaking with them, they were smiling. I asked them how they stayed so positive. She said, ‘That storm can take my house, it can take my car, it can take my furniture and my pictures, but it can never take my spirit.’”—J.J. Watt, NFL player

They can never take my spirit.

During this time of pandemic, it might feel like our spirits are cracking, and though slight fractures may occur, our spirits are resilient. They fuel us with hope. Nothing can take that away from us, unless we acquiesce, unless we accept it.

Thousands of people, like the ones Watt mentions above, fill me with hope.

And this week, our ancestors fill me with hope as well.

In the opening parsha of the Book of Numbers, the Israelite people find themselves deep in the desert. Homeless, without belongings or comfort or an end in sight, against all odds, the Israelites become masters at improvising. The parshah furnishes the results of a comprehensive census of the People with one notable exception. Commanded not to include the Levites in the general census, Moses assigns them the holy tasks of carrying, dismantling, and reerecting the Tabernacle whenever the Jews traveled.

I wonder if we could see ourselves a bit like the Levites now. We have dismantled our lives, our offices, our schools, as we rebuild and reimagine all aspects of life. Tangible things and items of comfort have grown elusive, out of touch for many people. But, as the prophet Zechariah famously spoke, it is our spirit that defines us. Torah reminds us that we can do it. Leaning on one another, our ancestors lessened the collective burden and found their way home.

No, we cannot physically lean on one another now, but we can in every other way. Producer of Grey’s Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes, reminds us: “If you are feeling helpless, help someone else. If you are feeling alone, don’t ignore another person’s loneliness. If you are afraid, be brave for someone else. Things feel more doable if they are not about you.” If we find that we are losing our spirit, may we look outwards towards others. In doing so, we make manifest the eternal words of Psalm 23, Cosi Rivaya/My Cup Overflows. As another Shabbat soon descends, may our faith and our deeds fill us with gratitude and hope.

Shabat Shalom,

Sam

Mon, August 3 2020 13 Av 5780