Hope. It’s a commodity that seems to be in short supply. The election is over but the president refuses to admit that he lost and still has two months in office to do whatever he likes. Instead of addressing the current covid outbreak, he continues to talk about a vaccine. The long-awaited vaccine will come, but not for many months.
In the meantime, the virus is spreading like the wildfires in the west earlier this year, and there are no signs that it will stop or slow. The only good thing I can think of this week is that the latest big storm didn’t hit poor Louisiana. Five hurricanes in one year is more than sufficient.
The dearth of hopefulness is affecting everyone, even me. And I’m one of those annoying people who isn’t just a glass-half-full person; I’m happy when there’s anything in it at all.
How do we cope with the unrelenting dreariness and isolation? I will admit that I have reverted to a deep nesting instinct. If you’ve ever visited my home, you know I have a penchant for vintage chairs. Mismatched? That’s a bonus. A rocker? I’m in heaven.
But there are only so many chairs you can squeeze into one home, and except for me, there’s no one to sit in them.
This week, I turned to the Torah for inspiration, and was met with a series of hopeful people and happy endings in the Torah portion, called Chaya Sarah, the life of Sarah. It doesn’t begin happily; the first thing we learn is that Sarah died and Abraham mourned.
Immediately after her burial, Abraham looks to the future and seeks a bride for his son; his servant sets off to find the right young woman for Isaac; and their hopes are fulfilled when Rebecca and Isaac meet and fall in love. Abraham then remarries, has a bunch of children, and dies happy and contented at age 175. To top it off, Ishmael (remember him?) and Isaac come together to bury their father.
It’s remarkable. Like a fairy tale, everything is wrapped up in a tidy package… except the story doesn’t end there. Rarely, if ever, does the Torah give us a “happily ever after” ending. We know that in next week’s Torah portion Rebecca and Isaac are going to have twins and each will choose one as their favorite, and the happy ending will dissolve into thin air.
I find that oddly comforting. I don’t really want a happily-ever-after right now. Not only are they unrealistic, they set the bar unreasonably high. Real life isn’t like that. Real life is messy, full of ups and downs, and we each try to do our best.
For my part, I will continue to refinish the chairs I’ve acquired, looking forward to the time when they will serve their true purpose. I will continue to think about my beloved congregation and how I can help us retain our strong sense of community even when we can’t be together. I will think about the wider world and what I can do to be of service.
Like Abraham, I find comfort in looking forward, looking to the future, and doing what I can to make it better than today.
If you’re having trouble with hope, if you’re sad or worried or in pain, call a friend. Call me. Call your rabbi, minister, imam. Call a hotline. But please, call someone!