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Standing in Two Worlds

08/03/2021 09:09:10 AM


Rabbi Brad Levenberg

It is rather difficult to stand simultaneously in two worlds.

On the one hand, this week found my social media feeds hijacked by – thank goodness – great news: lots and lots of back-to-school pictures. The smiling faces of these young people, some returning to in-person class for the first time since March 2020, are heartening indeed. They are pictures filled with hope, with promise, with excitement, as each of these young people enters into a year ahead that is unknown and in that unknowingness is exhilaration.

At the same time, my inbox is hijacked by – disappointingly but not unexpectedly – disheartening news stories. From pleas for help related to the wildfires out West or concerns about rising temperatures both in the Midwest and here in Atlanta as fall sports returns and practices begin, from concerns about the Delta variant and income insecurity and the still-very-real “us vs. them” in politics today, I find myself needing some protective gear just to open my inbox. These messages are filled with frustration, with sadness, with accusations, with uncertainty, as each of these issues propels us into a year that is unknown and in that unknowingness is trepidation.

Two worlds indeed.

Our Torah reading for the week captures this sentiment beautifully. The People of Israel are told that they are present with blessings and curses, with the compelling guidance that they choose blessing. What speaks to me this week is that the language indicates that both exist simultaneously, that a life of blessing is not one that is exclusively blessed, for there are challenges – curses, even – that we must confront. Blessings and curses, joys and oys, sometimes experienced by each of us in the same week, or the same day, or even just in a quick glance at our phones first thing in the morning.

My hope for us is that by choosing blessing we better prepare ourselves for experiencing the curses, that the joys provide us insight and family and friends to help us handle the oys. My further hope is that we don’t let the experience of the negative detract from our embrace of the happy moments. Standing in these two worlds simultaneously, may we respond with wisdom to the challenges and the curses we confront, and may we celebrate the blessings with aplomb.

Shabbat Shalom!

Wed, December 1 2021 27 Kislev 5782