As Mr. Rogers would say, it’s been a beautiful day in the neighborhood. The kind of day you’d like to put in a jar on the shelf for hard times.
Just a few miles from my Florida home, which was untouched by Hurricane Ian two weeks ago, my friend Annie is mourning the total destruction of her home on Pine Island and my friend Nick is dealing with the total destruction of his home on the Myakka River. Both lost all of their earthly possessions. Nick has handled the pain by helping others; Annie has been posting photos, videos, and descriptions of the destruction on Facebook, and they are heartbreaking.
That seems to be the way of things, from the very beginning. First Adam and Eve are having a fine time in the garden, and then a snake named Ian takes it all away in a heartbeat. The fallout is terrible and lasting. Some traumas can’t be recovered from.
So what are we to do with this capricious world of ours? When we fill our days with good deeds large and small, and then after bestowing a small kindness on a stranger happen upon a terrible accident, a motorcyclist bleeding to death on the pavement, a young driver staring in bewilderment at the debris all around?
In the Torah portion with Adam and Eve’s story, the second tragedy is just as awful – one son’s devastation by rejection results in the other lying dead, his blood crying out to God from the earth. The living brother goes on, marries, has children, but he bears a mark, a permanent scar that is always visible. Some tragedies are just too big.
I’d like to be able to take a day like today down from the shelf every morning and pray that no tragedies happen. Just this once.
And so, like so many others, I go to synagogue every week and pray for healing for those in pain, peace for those in strife. I worry about Ukraine and Israel and Florida, and I pray that in the end it will all be OK. We come back again and again, week after week, praying for the same things, because they always need us to pray, always need our hopes and our hands and our dedication to what’s good and worthwhile in this world.
I’ve been listening to a beautiful rendition of Adon Olam to the melody from Scarborough Faire. The prayer is a bedtime song to God, full of hope and faith. On Friday morning, as I prepared for Shabbat, there was a bird singing along with the music, in perfect time and harmony. I could almost believe that everything was perfect. The last line trembled on the air and then faded. V’im ruchi g’viati, Adonai li, v’ lo era. “Even if my breath leaves me, Adonai is mine, I will not fear.”
The week’s Torah portion, the very first one in the Bible, begins with God creating everything, and then watching as those very creations lie, deceive, rape, and murder. The Torah reports that God said, “I repent that I have made them.”
But there is always hope. Because in the very next verse, the very next breath, the Torah tells us that Noah found grace in God’s eyes.
I could not save the beauty of the morning for tomorrow. I can only trust that in the morning, the birds will still sing and I will still be alive to do God’s work in whatever small ways I can manage, despite Ian, despite death and war, despite pollution and hatred.
And I will continue to pray and hope. Adonai li v’lo era. Adonai is mine and I shall not fear.