Tonight we wait. Some more patiently than others.
We Americans are notorious for our impatience. All you have to do is visit any airport to see us in action. It’s not a pretty picture. Neither is watching the race to beat a yellow traffic light before it turns red.
Waiting is hard. We’ve been waiting for the coronavirus to go away for months now, and yet it’s still here, and getting worse by the day.
Waiting for the results of an important election? It’s making us crazy. Well, some of us. Others have figured out that in the not-knowing there is time; time to breathe, time to concentrate on other important things, time to reach out to loved ones and friends with encouragement and support.
For my part, I remember teaching my children that every vote counts. If every vote counts, then every vote must be counted. Even if it takes time. Even if it makes us crazy with anxiety.
This week’s Torah portion is called Vayera, “and he appeared.” The “he” is God, and God appears in the form of angels several times to different people; to Abraham, Sarah, Lot, Hagar.
Vayera includes the stories of Sodom and Gomorrah, of Sarah’s giving birth and her unkindness to Hagar, and the near-sacrifice of Isaac. In each instance, the humans must chose how they will react. React too hastily and you might make the wrong decision… or sacrifice your beloved son.
We all face tests. Some are enormously important, many minor. We betray our true character by how we deal with them and whom we seek out for help and support along the way.
We can stumble and falter, and sometimes we sink to the ground and weep, as Hagar did when she thought her child would die of thirst. But she discovered that in her despair she had failed to notice a well of fresh water. It took an angel to tell her to look up.
In those moments we need to remember that we are not alone. There are so many places to turn for solace, for a reminder to be patient and stay calm. For someone to tell us that we are loved. For someone to tell us to look up.
I have come to believe there are angels all around us. Human angels and divine angels, perhaps in disguise but here nonetheless, if we can just open our hearts to the possibility.
The Talmud teaches that every blade of grass has an angel beside it, whispering “grow, grow.” Certainly if a blade of grass has its own angel, I can believe that I too am surrounded by angels, encouraging me, supporting me, helping to steer me in the right direction.
May we and all Americans be blessed with patience and the willingness to not know, at least for a while.