Tag Archives: trust

Where Does Faith Go When It Is Lost?

strange-landWhat happens when one day a rabbi discovers that he has lost his faith? Dr. Paul Shrell-Fox, a clinical psychologist and researcher asked himself that question – which turned into to a fascinating study.

Seven rabbis agreed to “talk about it” – three Conservative community rabbis in the United States, and four strictly Orthodox rabbis who live in Israel and have a double identity: Secretly atheists, and rabbis and believers openly.

-Tali Farkash
“Atheists in closet: Rabbis who lost God”
Published 07.28.13, 11:13, ynetnews.com

Over a year ago, I published a blog post on a very similar topic called When We’re Left Behind. It was based on an article written by Barbara Bradley Hagerty for NPR.org called “From Minister to Atheist: A Story of Losing Faith”.

How crushing would it be to love your Pastor or Rabbi, having attended his (or her) congregation for years and growing close to him (or her) as a model of faith, and then to discover that this “Holy person” has no faith in God at all and in fact is an atheist? What would that do you your faith (or mine)?

I don’t want to recycle something I’ve written before, but this brings up some new questions about the nature of religion (as opposed to faith) and how we live it out in our lives. While I certainly can’t deny the social role of church for Christians, we lack (in most cases) the connection to our religious community based on ethnicity, culture, and sometimes race. It is true there are churches that have such a basis, such as African-American churches and Korean churches, but for the most part, the Church as a social entity is just a group of people who (in theory) share the same theology and doctrine about God but who otherwise come from a wide spectrum of social, economic, educational, and employment backgrounds (this probably isn’t true in an absolute sense, but I’ll use it as a general principle for the sake of this essay).

Jewish synagogue life is a different thing because what is being shared is a lot of cultural, ethnic, traditional, religious, and even national and DNA components. It goes back to the difference between “What is a Jew?” and “What is a Christian?” You can’t just say people who have different religions. Being Jewish is enormously more complicated and in some ways, elusive in definition.

So I can see a Rabbi who becomes an atheist having a tougher time in leaving his/her community than a Pastor in the same situation (not that it wouldn’t be really hard on the Pastor as well). From a Rabbi’s point of view, if you are leading a shul in a small community, leaving the synagogue would be leaving behind your entire social, friendship, and possibly family circles. Your entire life, or most of it, probably flows through synagogue life. I suppose something similar could be said of a Pastor as well, but perhaps not quite to the same depth.

How about extending the topic beyond Rabbis and Pastors? My wife says that at our local Reform/Conservative synagogue, the Friday night service is aimed at more secular Jews who connect socially and through traditions, while the Saturday Shabbat service is more for “religious Jews.” The missus even says that some of the synagogue members wish that the current Rabbi would retire/move on (he’s still in his 40s, so is nowhere near retirement age) because he’s “too religious.”

At the opposite religious extreme are the Ultra-Orthodox or the Haredim, who seem to take the slightest infraction of the mitzvot, even among those Jewish people who are not Haredi, so, so seriously, to the point of being abusive and assaultive. It seems like something has gone horribly wrong in certain corners religious Judaism where, on the one extreme, God is all but ignored, and on the other, God is exceptionally tightfisted and punitive, and adherents experience no problem in actually attacking other human beings.

I don’t know if you get that exactly in Christianity, although to be sure, we have churches that are so extremely liberal that God seems like an afterthought and Biblical standards are as fluid as quicksand. We also have churches and groups so hyper-conservative that they too don’t care who they hurt or what damage they do to other human beings, even desecrating the funerals of military men and women for the sake of their distorted theology and need to push their weight around. I’d call that going horribly wrong, too.

It’s enough to make me lose my faith in religious people.

Waiting to danceBut what makes a person lose their faith in God? Of some of the folks and groups I’ve just mentioned, they probably didn’t have faith as such to begin with. Their religious venues are more a tradition-based, cultural, and social outlet, as opposed to a gathering where an encounter with God is sought. At the opposite extreme, it may not be God that anyone is looking for, but the need to impose internal punitive, restrictive, and ultra-conservative standards on the entire environment of human beings. As far as I can tell, God’s chosen method of operation isn’t to either ignore His standards or massively exaggerate them and then force them on others without so much as a by your leave.

I know my Pastor will disagree with me, but I believe we have a choice. I believe we have lots of choices in life, the first or at least the most important being whether or not we are going to have a relationship with God. After that, other choices follow. I believe God is like a Father or teacher (sometimes the roles overlap). Certainly if we act foolishly, we should fear Him, but fear isn’t the primary foundation upon which our relationship is built. Neither is hate. Neither is casualness and pandering to social agendas.

Once we have faith in God, and more importantly, trust, how can we lose that? Some folks say you can’t unless you never had it in the first place:

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

John 10:27-30 (NASB)

That creates a problem because here we see people, Pastors and Rabbis, who have lost their faith (although Jews, because they are born into covenant, are accountable whether they have faith or not). Did they have it in the first place or did something else happen? What if they actually have faith somewhere at their core, faith in God that is, but lost something else instead? What if they lost their faith in religious people or the mechanics of religion?

I don’t think I could lose faith in God but there are days I’d throw religion and religious people out the window, slam it shut, lock it, and never look out again. A life in community, whether in person or online, can be really frustrating at times. We have all of these high ideals about love, companionship, worship, and holiness, but our real lives are so messy by comparison. We don’t always treat each other well, even when we intend to.

Some people are cranky by their nature or because they have adopted a victim stance and out of that, are perpetually defensive (I know bloggers who write out of that position pretty much all the time). Some people are generally OK until you hit one of their “hot button topics,” and then watch out (I wonder if that’s how I’m going to be next week in Sunday school?). Being in community with religious people is like walking through a mine field or living in an alcoholic family. You never know when the peace will be shattered by an abrupt and devastating explosion.

If I ever lost my faith, it wouldn’t be in God, it would be in human beings.

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

There are times when I think it’s the ocean that’s dirty and only a few drops are clean.

Until you can see the good within a person, you are incapable of helping him.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Helping”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

desert-islandAnd sometimes that’s an amazingly difficult thing to do. Reading quotes from Gandhi and Rabbi Freeman present a very pleasant picture, but life in the trenches of religion is anything but, at least for those folks who are struggling with faith (and don’t we all at some point).

I know why a Rabbi and Pastor (or probably just ordinary people) would stay in their religious communities after they’d lost faith in God…because of the continued social rewards. Most people who lose faith in people but not God would just leave the community and either try to find another or bail on community life entirely. But what if community life fails you but you still find God is present within the synagogue or church? What do you do then? Are you even aware that it’s God who’s holding you there? Maybe what feels like losing faith in God is just a protracted silence? God doesn’t always talk. But we’re supposed to have faith in the desert too.

I don’t have all the answers. Sometimes I don’t even know the right questions to ask. I just know that this religious life that is supposed to bring us closer to God isn’t pain-free, and it seems for some folks that the pain increases exponentially as we strive to approach Holiness. Maybe that’s why most religious people hit a comfortable plateau and just stay there, neither being too hot or too cold in their spirituality, but only lukewarm. Maybe that’s why some people quit completely, because being numb is better than being set on fire and writhing in the flames.

Where are the Gandhis and the Freemans with their soothing, supportive words? Where is the so called “community of faith?” Where is God?

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves…

-William Shakespeare
“Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141)”

Save Me!

falling-save-meA guy is riding his motorcycle down a mountain road when suddenly he loses control and goes hurtling off the cliff. As he’s sailing through the air, he shouts out: “God! Please make a miracle! Save me!”

Within moments his shirt gets caught on a protruding branch – and he is left dangling thousands of feet above the ground.

There’s no way out, so he looks heavenward and shouts: “God! Please save me!”

“Do you trust Me, my beloved son?” calls the voice from heaven.

“Yes, God, I trust you. Just please save me!”

“Okay then,” says God. “Let go of the branch and I’ll catch you.”

The man thinks for a moment, looks around, and calls out: “Is anyone else out there?!”

“Recognizing God”
-from “Ask the Rabbi”
Aish.com

I’ve been writing a lot lately on topics that seem to inspire not only conversation (which is good) but emotional disagreement (which isn’t always good). I thought I’d back off a bit and discuss something that we all have in common: trusting God. I say we all have it in common (assuming you have faith in the living God of Israel), because trusting God isn’t always easy. The little story I quoted above is a joke but jokes are funny because they contain a truth we all understand.

Not only is trusting God difficult but the worse the situation is we find ourselves in, the more difficult of a time we have in trusting. Hence the punchline, “Is anyone else out there?”

Trusting God isn’t a matter of how well our lives are going. If we trust God only when things are doing well with us, it’s not trust. Trusting God is about the relationship we have with Him and to some degree, who we are as an individual personality.

The Aish Rabbi continues:

The key to forging a relationship with God is to trust Him. God is not some vindictive, punishing old man in the sky. God is our loving Creator, who wants only our best. Sometimes that calls for Him to “test” us with difficulties; but the intention is only to bring out our very best.

When we are children, we think we are the center of the universe. Then, through experience and trials, we become increasingly aware of the fact that there are things in life beyond our control. Whether it’s earthquakes, cancer, the rise and fall of fortunes, circumstances of our birth – and even birth itself… this can only be ascribed to a Higher Power.

Maimonides writes that there are two primary ways to attain recognition of God: by observing the wonders of Creation, and by performing mitzvot. Through nature, we see the beauty, splendor, and perfect unity of the world. Through mitzvot, we see how humanity can likewise attain unity and perfection.

trustingIn a way, we learn to trust God by acting the way we want Him to act (speaking of mitzvot). If we live a life that is upright, generous, charitable, merciful, compassionate, and wholesome, we will tend to think of God in that way. If our natures (which are sinful and thus very bad) are stingy, mean-spirited, cruel, hard-hearted, base, and immoral, we tend not to think of God that way, but we think we are going to be struck down any second by God. We expect, when hard times come, that we deserve it and we can’t trust God to help us out.

Trusting God depends on how well we can trust ourselves and how well others trust us.

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky at Torah.org has a commentary based on last week’s Torah reading that also illustrates this point.

My dear friend Rabbi Benyamin Brenig of Golders Green, London recently related this wonderful story to me: Reuvain and Shimon were two men, who lived on opposite ends of town. They each inherited a fortune of gold. Each of them decided to bury their fortunes in their backyards. They wanted to make sure that they would have something to sustain them in their old age. On their respective properties, they each picked a landmark, paced twenty steps due north and dug a large hole.

Reuvain, the more nervous of the two, was careful to make sure that no one was watching. Every other second he glanced furtively over his shoulder to make sure that no one saw him bury the treasure. No one did.

Shimon, by nature, was trusting and carefree and he was not so careful. He was not worried that anyone would steal his fortune. But he was wrong. He was spotted by a nosy neighbor, who was also a thief.

In the middle of the night, the thief dug up the fortune. Out of mercy, he left few coins at the bottom of the pit, and removed the coins. He refilled the hole and packed the ground perfectly as if nothing was disturbed. Then he took off with the fortune.

Reuvain’s fortune, however, remained intact. But he was, by nature, a worrier. And so, the next day he decided to dig up the hole to make sure that the gold was still there. Accidentally, he counted only fifteen paces from his landmark and dug. There was nothing there. Reuvain was frantic. Someone must have seen him dig the pit, he figured. For the rest of his life, he worried. On his property, he had a pit filled with gold coins, but all Reuvain did was worry!

Shimon on the other hand had nothing but the remnants of a few coins. Everything else was stolen. But he never checked the fortune, and was merrily content, assured that when the time would come he could dig up the pit and retrieve his fortune. Reuvain, the millionaire, died heartbroken and frantic. Shimon, the man with but a few coins left for his old-age lived his life content as if he was the wealthiest man in the world.

The Torah tells us about the different types of blessings. For the faithful, Hashem says, “I will command my blessing in the sixth year,” in which Rashi assures us that even a bit will feel like a bounty. But we must acknowledge that despite Heavenly assurances, there are those who always worry. They need to see the money! They ask, “What will we eat in the seventh year? Behold! We will not sow and not gather in our crops!” Hashem must assure them that he will increase their bounty in a way that is visible to them.

Some of us can believe without seeing immediate results. We can sleep well, with full satisfaction on empty stomachs. The greatest expression of faith is when we do not see the blessing, but we feel it in our hearts and even in our stomachs. That blessing transcends tangibility, and the fear of deficiency. I think that is a noble goal.

For the rest of us, those who keep looking over their shoulder and check their fortunes every day, they need a different type of blessing. Sometimes we dig for tangible salvation, even though the treasure is sitting undisturbed in our own backyard.

waiting-for-mannaI know that was a long quote, but I think it’s a good story and it tells us something about God and who we choose to be in God. Once you bury gold in the backyard, you can no longer see if it is there or not unless you dig it up. You can be like Shimon who lost most of his gold but because he trusted in something more precious than gold, lived his life in security and happiness as if he were a wealthy man. Reuvain, by contrast, didn’t lose a dime, but because he thought he had lost everything due to his untrusting nature, he could not trust the One who is worth far more than gold coins, and thus he lived out his life, though wealthy, as if he were a pauper dressed in rags.

We can’t control the circumstances of our lives with any certainty. Yes, we can invest in IRAs, spend cautiously on personal comforts, give generously to the poor, treat the lonely and grieving with kindness and compassion, but like the residents of New York and New Jersey, we cannot anticipate when the next superstorm Sandy will come and wipe all of our material possessions away like a sandcastle on a beach.

Like Job, we can learn to trust in God whether he grants us much or little. And we can strive to learn to trust God as did Paul.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:11-13

I’ll freely admit that I sometimes have trouble with matters of trust, but that’s my problem, not God’s. God is not only immensely trustworthy but infinitely so. And even if I were to lose everything, I could only try to aspire to be like Job when he said, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face” (Job 13:15). The part about “argue my ways” may seem a little off base, but if I trust God, then I can trust Him with my heart, which includes all of my emotions, my disappointments, and my anguish, even my problems of trust in Him.

But in the end, we all will arrive at the same destination. In the end, we must all trust God and cry out to Him, “Save me!” Will we “let go” and let Him catch us?

141 days.

The Terrible Living God

terror-keepers-of-the-faithMany people express gratitude to the Almighty for being saved from desperate and problematic situations. But surely they’d have preferred that the problem would have never have arisen in the first place!

This, however, is not the proper attitude. The purpose of all problems is that they should serve as a means for a person to become closer to the Almighty. Both the problems – and the solutions – are part of the Divine plan to help elevate you.

The next time you are faced with a problem, think for a moment: “This problem enables me to become closer to my Creator.”

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Daily Lift #756: Problems Bring Us Closer”
Aish.com

The world is not obstructing you. It is challenging you.

It knows its deepest treasures can be revealed only by the deepest faculties of your soul, and it taps those powers by providing isometrics for the soul.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Isometrics”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

Gosh, that all sounds so reasonable, so wonderful, so illuminating, so wise. I bet there are plenty of Christian writers who give similar advice. Just reading the words, I can imagine many other religions and philosophies also offer such an outlook and I don’t doubt that there are just tons and tons of books, including secular self-help books, that say more or less the same thing.

But when you’re actually having real problems, you may not immediately think in a cheerful inner voice, “Gee, this is a challenge God is giving me to help elevate me and bring me closer to Him.” You more likely are praying to God something like, “HELP!

I’m not saying that Rabbi Pliskin and Rabbi Freeman are wrong, just that such enlightened perspectives (and the vast majority of self-help aids on the market) fail to take real human beings with real worries, fears, and anxieties into account. They don’t consider the actual, lived experience of a person who is recovering from a serious accident or illness, who has just heard the news that a loved one is terminally ill, who has just had their house foreclosed, who has just had…

…you get the idea.

My father said: Truth is the middle path. An inclination to the right, to be overly stringent with oneself and find faults or sins not in accord with the truth, or an inclination to the left, to be overly indulgent, covering one’s faults or being lenient in demands of avoda out of self-love – both these ways are false.

“Today’s Day”
Thursday, 27 Adar I, 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

Life, like truth, runs a middle path. Most of us aren’t incredibly holy and elevated people and most of us, if we have a spiritual awareness at all, aren’t feeding on the bottom of the river with the catfish either.

But people with a spiritual awareness can often drift off center, and when hard times come, we can either treat ourselves harshly, like we must have done something horrible to deserve this tragedy, or we may think that it’s totally unfair of God to let bad things happen to us and that He should cut us some slack. I’ve experienced both and “lived in” both places, and in my experience, hitting that “middle ground” is a very hard thing to do. It seems to be more reasonable and takes a lot less energy to just let yourself go emotionally and spiritually “limp” and throw yourself on the mercy of the court, which in this case is God.

But then Rabbi Freeman says:

There’s no such thing as defeat.

There’s always another chance. To believe in defeat is to believe that there is something, a certain point in time that did not come from Above.

Know that G‑d doesn’t have failures. If things appear to worsen, it is only as part of them getting better. We fall down only in order to bounce back even higher.

failureKind of makes me wonder if Rabbi Freeman has ever been in a situation where he’s felt defeated. Probably so, but one doesn’t successfully write motivational missives by admitting to such a thing.

You may gather from the topic in today’s meditation that I’ve been having a bad time lately, but that’s not actually true. However, I do sometimes react when I read advice articles or columns that I think are overly “perky.” I’m not sure that “religious people” always know how to cut someone enough slack to be compassionate without being so “mushy” that they (we) become enabling.

On the other hand, I think that there are times when we need to be confident in our faith and, in spite of the problems that are kicking us in the teeth, we need to persevere and push on. Certainly people like Brother Yun have had to do just that over and over again while being tortured, while being in prison, while being on the run from the law, while being hungry, while being homeless, and all of his other experiences as a Pastor and an Evangelist in Communist China.

But I also think there are times when the weight of a thousand, thousand problems, pressures, hurts, injuries, depressions, and hopeless situations land with a solid “thunk” on our chests and threaten to smash us flatter than a hockey puck and all we can to is cry out to God. Sometimes we can’t even do that and as we feel faith and even life oozing out of us, the only thing left is to give in and say, “God, do as You will,” and then let whatever’s going to happen, happen.

The trick is to know the difference. Neat trick. I wish I could learn it.

Or maybe I don’t. I’ve noticed that those people who have sincerely asked God to use them in a powerful way often experience trials and circumstances that were and are a lot tougher than they anticipated. Brother Yun made such a request of God and if you’ve read my review of his book (see the link above), you’ll know that he suffered tremendously.

For that matter, look at the lives of Paul, Peter, John, and the other apostles. Most of all, look at the life of Jesus.

During a sermon a few weeks ago, my Pastor told a story. The story was about a Pastor who was giving a preaching series on discipleship. The series took many weeks to complete and was very thorough. When the Pastor finished his series, one of the long-time church members approached him and said:

Thank you Pastor for giving such an informative and insightful sermon on discipleship. Now that I understand what a disciple is and what it takes to be a good one, I don’t want to be a disciple anymore.

That’s supposed to inspire a “knowing” chuckle from the audience.

heavy-burdenWe always say that we’ll pick up our cross and follow Jesus anywhere, but how true is that? Do we put limits on how far we’ll go for our faith? Do we ever ask Jesus when we’re following him, why the territory seems to be getting so gloomy, scary, and dangerous looking?

Probably. Expecially in America and other Western nations, Christians aren’t used to having to work too hard at that “picking up cross and following” thing. Frankly, we should be afraid of it because we don’t really understand the implications, and if we did, we wouldn’t want them.

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”

Luke 22:31-34 (ESV)

I think we all know how that one turned out. Actually, in an ultimate sense, it turned out well, but not in the short run.

So what does that mean for us? Should we limit what we do for God because of the potential consequences? Should we stiffen our spines and just take what God gives us, no matter what, and be happy about it? I’d like to say the latter, but it scares me. I know faith demands the latter, but what will happen?

Becoming a Christian is like getting married. When the idea comes up and even as you approach the wedding day, everything seems great. You look forward to it. You see only the rewards. Then the big day comes, there’s the ceremony, all of your friends and family are there, you have the reception, you get lots of gifts and attention, sure there’s stress involved, but it’s hardly noticable in the whirlwind of activity.

Then there’s the honeymoon, setting up housekeeping, everything seems wonderful at first, you see only the good.

Then you have your first fight. A year passes, children a born, other years pass, you change, your spouse changes, and something interesting happens.

Stuff that you never, ever imagined would happen, happens. It could be stuff people, your parents, your Pastor, a counselor, tried to tell you would happen, but you didn’t listen or figured it would be no big deal. It could be stuff that you never imagined would occur in a million years. Stuff that only happens to other people. Stuff that you didn’t even think was possible.

But all that stuff makes your marriage hard!

You even think of divorce.

Actually, lots and lots of people get divorced and lots and lots of people stop being Christians and leave the church. End of story. It was too hard to be married. It’s too hard to be a disciple of Christ.

But then there are many, many other marriages that last thirty, forty, fifty, sixty or more years. Some of these marriages have managed to retain the love and devotion that the couple felt from the start, although the “magic” comes and goes periodically throughout the relationship. And then there are many, many other marriages where the relationship lasts just as long but the couple have drifted apart. Maybe some big problem forcefully inserted the initial wedge between them and then they traveled in different directions or maybe the initial “disconnect” was so subtle that neither husband nor wife noticed.

And now they live in the same house, eat the same meals, maybe even sit on the same sofa and watch the same TV shows, but they are actually living two separate lives. They never fight. They never argue. They never cuddle. They never make love. They’re just there.

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

Revelation 3:15-22 (ESV)

goldilocksThat probably describes a lot of Christians and a lot of Christian churches. The real tragedy is that these folks actually want it that way. A lukewarm bath is comfortable. Kind of like Goldilocks and the porridge. Not too hot and not too cold.

And not too demanding, stressful, or dangerous.

Lots of Christians describe themselves as “on fire for the Lord.” But fire burns out. Coals grow cold. Fuel turns to ashes.

How do we respond? First off, we should be careful what we ask for. Secondly, we should ask to be built up, so when God really does ask for something outrageous and spectactular from us, it doesn’t come as a complete shock. We’ve been prepared.

We should ask for mercy. Paul asked three times that his “thorn” (whatever it may have been) be removed from him, but the Lord said that his grace was all Paul needed. Pray that when the moment comes, we can let the Lord’s grace be all that we need as well.

And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Hebrews 10:30-31 (ESV)

Each of us is fighting a hard battle in our lives. Pray that God will show compassion and mercy to us all, for if we haven’t realized it yet, we have all failed and will all fail…and then fall into the hands of the living God.

Purim: Death in the Presence of the King

hadassahWho [but Moses] ascended to heaven and descended? Who else gathered the wind in his palm? Who else tied the waters in a cloak? Who established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name if you know?

Proverbs 30:4 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

On that day at the turning of evening he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the sea.” They left the crowd of people and took him in the boat that he was in, but other boats followed him. A great, stormy wind arose, and the waves were flooding inside the boat to the point where it was almost full. He was asleep on a cushion in the stern of the boat, so they woke him up and said to him, “Rabbi, are you not worried about us? We are perishing!” He woke up and reprimanded the wind, and he said to the sea, “Hush and be silent!” The wind calmed down, and there was a great silence. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Why are you lacking faith?” They feared with a great fear and said to each other, “Who is he, then, that both the wind and the sea listen to him?”

Mark 4:35-41 (DHE Gospels)

Faith in the face of certain disaster is at least “difficult” for most of us. We struggle to maintain our faith in God when “ordinary” trials and troubles confront us, but when the difficulty is extreme and death or severe hardship seems absolutely unavoidable, where is our faith then? Moments like those are times of extreme testing and most of us, myself included, hope and pray we will never have our faith tested like that.

And yet, at this time of Purim, we see before us that faith is tested and tested harshly. Yes, the story of Esther is known and realizing that it has a happy ending takes some of the tension out of her situation, but that’s not how life works for us. That God knows the ending of our life of troubles before it begins does nothing to comfort us when we are in the midst of terror, injury, disease, and grief.

Only Esther could save her people from the evil decree of Haman, but to approach the King when he has not summoned you could lead to death. Could Esther risk her own life for the sake of the Jewish nation in exile as they rapidly approached extermination?

Then Mordechai said to reply to Esther, “Do not imagine in your soul that you will be able to escape in the king’s palace any more than the rest of the Jews. For if you persist in keeping silent at a time like this, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another place, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether it was just for such a time as this that you attained the royal position!”

Esther 4:13-14 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

While in the Jewish world, Purim is a time of joy and frivolity, a time of wearing costumes, children’s plays, candy, cakes, and a little of the “hard stuff” (for the adults), what lessons can we learn, Jews and Christians alike, from Esther’s example?

How should we understand this give-and-take? Was it simply a matter of Esther fearing for her life, while Mordechai urged her to put the plight of her people first?

Their argument, explains the Nesivos Shalom, was much more fundamental. Esther had accepted the fate of her people. She argued that they had reached such a spiritual low that they were undeserving of Divine deliverance from Haman’s decree. The Al-mighty has rules, and the people had broken them and were sealed for extinction. Mordechai countered that the situation is never hopeless. We will be saved “some other way,” one that defies all rules. G-d has a profound love for us and will break the rules of His kingdom, even if we don’t deserve it. If we reach beyond our limits for Him, He will go beyond His limits for us. Go into the palace against the rules, he said, and demonstrate how our love for Him also transcends all limits.

Purim encourages us to live in this plain that overlooks our natural limitations. Walled in by physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries, we often fall short of our potential for greatness, accepting that some things are just impossible to achieve. Some things are indeed impossible, but never are they hopeless. The Al-mighty has limitless love and help waiting for us, and with Him all is possible. With that in mind, we can have the strength to attempt and hopefully achieve the impossible.

-Rabbi Mordechai Dixler
“Beyond the Law”
Commentary on Esther and Purim
Project Genesis

symmes_chapel_churchIt is said that we should maintain our hope in God, even when our death seems certain, “even if a sharp sword is resting on [our] neck” and the decree against us is final, that through prayer, the mercy of God may still be aroused. We read the story of Esther at Purim. We dress in silly, brightly colored costumes and participate in plays where, when Mordechai’s name is said, we cheer, and when Haman’s name (may it be blotted out forever) is mentioned, we boo. We eat and drink as if we had been a prisoner on death row who, in the final seconds before the fatal injection was to be given to us, we were miraculously pardoned and set free.

But we must always be mindful that there are still prisoners.

“[A]fter all of these pressures, after all of the nails they have pressed against my hands and feet, they are only waiting for one thing…for me to deny Christ.”

Pastor Saeed Abedini
from a letter he wrote as a prisoner in Iran

Pastor Abedini is still a captive in Iran and his jailers continually demand that he deny his faith in Christ and “return to Islam.” I don’t normally “get political” on this blog nor was I intending on writing a commentary on Purim or for that matter, on Pastor Abedini, but I think God had other plans. In faith, we pray for deliverance when times are difficult. But it is trust and hope that drives us to pray when the sword is in motion, falling toward the back of our necks, and death is certain.

I raise my eyes upon the mountains; whence will come my help? My help is from Hashem, Maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

Who is it who has gathered the wind in his palm? Who is He and what is the name of his Son? Who is he, then, that both the wind and the sea listen to him?

Pray that the God who created us all liberate Pastor Abedini soon and that his faith and hope does not falter. Pray that none of us will be put to a similar testing, but if we are, pray that we are strengthened and can endure.

Pray that the King finds favor with us and welcomes us into His Presence.

Crying Out to God

Standing before GodWhen the son of Reb Michel Blinner of Nevel was in mortal danger, he asked Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, the “Tzemach Tzedek,” for a blessing. The Tzemach Tzedek responded, “Awaken the power of trust in G‑d with simple faith that He, blessed be He, will save your son. Thought helps. Think good and it will be good.”

And so it was that Reb Michel’s son was saved.

-Rabbi Yosef Yitzchaak Schneerson of Lubavitch
Igrot Kodesh (letters), vol. 7, pg. 197
Quoted from Chabad.org

A request is an expression of what we want, but the most effective prayer is an expression of what we desperately need. Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, one of today’s great Torah sages, once told a visitor, “Last year you said you wanted this. So I asked you then, ‘Who says G-d wants this too?’ This year you said you needed this. In that case you should be successful in getting it, because our Father makes sure His children have what they need.”

-Rabbi Mordechai Dixler
“Who Needs Him?”
ProjectGenesis.org

I wrote my “morning meditation” Shemot: Trusting God yesterday, and so it wasn’t until last night that my wife sent me a link to Rabbi Tzvi Freeman’s article Is the Law of Attraction a Jewish Idea?

According to Wikipedia, the Law of attraction “is the name given to the belief that “like attracts like” and that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts, one can bring about positive or negative result.” It’s also the source of more books and materials than you can shake a stick at including The Law of Attraction: The Basics of the Teachings of Abraham by Esther and Jerry Hicks (no, I haven’t read it) and the very famous Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (no, I haven’t read this one, either).

But as Rabbi Freeman says, the “law of attraction places the human being smack in the center of the universe, pulling all the strings. You create your own reality.” For this to work, a person must make himself his own god and then have complete faith in that god. Sounds silly from a Christian’s point of view, but what if there’s something to all this “attraction” business after all?

The Law of Attraction is a popular idea that states that a person’s attitude attracts matching happenstance. Pessimism attracts misfortune, while optimism attracts good fortune.

The power of attitude to change the flow of a person’s life is a tacit assumption of much of Torah literature, particularly in that most influential source of common wisdom, the Psalms. “One who trusts in G‑d, kindness surrounds him!” (Psalm 32:10) “Fortunate is the man who puts his trust in G‑d!” (Ibid 40:5)

The sages of the Talmud similarly appear to take this law for granted. For example, in dismissing as useless superstition a folk-omen to determine whether one’s journey will meet with success or doom, the sages advise, “But don’t do it.” Why not? “Because perhaps the omen will be negative, the person will worry, and his fortune will go sour.” (Horayot 12a)

The idea is correct, at least according to Jewish philosophy and mysticism, but people tend to put their focus and trust on themselves rather than the One and true living God.

I quoted Rabbi Kalman Packouz in my earlier meditation, and I mentioned his list of 7 Principles for Trusting in God:

  1. The Creator of the universe loves me more than anybody else in the world possibly can.
  2. The Almighty is aware of all my struggles, desires and dreams. All I need is to ask Him for help.
  3. The Almighty has the power to give me anything I want.
  4. There is no other power in the universe other than the Almighty. Only He can grant me success and give me what I want.
  5. The Almighty has a track record for giving me more than I am asking for.
  6. The Almighty gives with no strings attached. I don’t need to earn it or deserve it. He will give it to me anyway.
  7. The Almighty knows what is best for me and everything He does is only for my good.

For Rabbi Freeman’s conceptualization of the “law of attraction” to work, we must trust in the God of Heaven for all things rather than in ourselves. If we trust that God will provide, then it stands to reason He will, at least according to Rabbi Freeman. If we are constantly worried, on the other hand…

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Matthew 6:25-34 (ESV)

Tree of LifeI mentioned Jewish mysticism before. Here is the parallel to the above from the Zohar:

The Lower World is always ready to receive and is called a precious stone. The Upper World only gives it according to its state. If its state is of a bright countenance from below, in the same manner it is shone upon from above; but if it is in sadness, it is correspondingly given judgment. Similarly, it is written, “Serve G‑d with joy!”—because human joy draws another supernal joy. Thus, just as the Lower World is crowned, so it draws from above.

-Zohar, volume 3, 56a

I’m not holding up Kabbalah as, in any sense, equal to the words of the Master, but I do want to show that there are different directions from which we can approach trusting God and having confidence that He will provide. It’s in that confidence that we are healed.

And there was a woman who had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

Luke 8:43-48 (ESV)

Maybe I’m taking this too far, but look again at what Jesus says in verse 48: “Daughter, your faith has made you well.”

He didn’t say “I have made you well” but rather Your faith has made you well.”

Let’s take another example:

And as Jesus passed on from there, two blind men followed him, crying aloud, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” When he entered the house, the blind men came to him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.” Then he touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it done to you.” And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, “See that no one knows about it.”

Matthew 9:27-30 (ESV)

Look at the question Jesus asks in verse 28: “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” The two blind men had to ascent that they did believe Jesus could restore their sight. Once they did (I guess Jesus didn’t necessarily take them at their word), the Master said, “According to your faith be it done to you.” In other words, the ability of Jesus to heal these two men was directly related to their faith in his ability to do so.

Woman prayingOK, I don’t want to create a formula or mechanical set of steps for healing and manipulating God, but this does seem to positively connect back to what Rabbis Freeman and Packouz have been saying about trusting God and its effects. No, I’m not saying that God is powerless in the face of a faithless humanity, but I am saying that it seems as if those of us who are aware of God are in some mysterious sense “partners” in His activity in our lives.

In my examples from the Gospels, we seem to see that a lack of faith would have resulted in few or no miracles from Jesus and that, conversely, great faith (even without the conscious awareness of Christ in the case of the woman with the “issue of blood”) produces great miracles. We further see this relationship between faith and “attracting” the power of God here:

And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.

Matthew 13:58 (ESV)

Again, I don’t want to suggest that we can exploit some sort of “system” for getting God to do what we want Him to do. After all, how many people of sincere and fervent faith have prayed for the healing of a loved one and instead of a bodily healing, the person being prayed for died? (I know of a number of such people and families)

I’ve said before that there are no guarantees and that we trust in God because, as believers, we simply have no choice. Except we have a choice and we often choose not to trust God. It gets more complicated when we realize that trust or lack thereof, isn’t a matter of our just doing or not doing something, since even a person with supreme trust in the Almighty is still expected to take an active role, not only in prayer, but any other activity involved in achieving what we need.

A meditation for when things get rough:

The world was brought into being with Goodness. And the ultimate good for Man is that he should not be shamed, but feel as a partner in the fulfillment of the divine plan. Free bread is to us bread of shame—such is the nature of Man.

That is why nothing good comes without toil. And according to the toil can be known the harvest that will be reaped in the end.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Toil”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

Groaning by itself won’t do a bit of good. A groan is only a key to open the heart and eyes, so as not to sit there with folded arms, but to plan orderly work and activity, each person wherever he can be effective…

“Today’s Day”
Thursday, Tevet 23, 5703
Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

Blessed by GodI suppose I’m writing all of this because I’m trying to convince myself to just “let go and let God,” as the popular Christian saying goes. But it’s still not that easy.

Where were you when I established the earth?

Job 38:4

One who reads the book of Job cannot but have compassion for just and pious Job, who appears to be unfairly subjected to suffering. All the rational arguments that his friends offer to account for his innocent suffering appear hollow, and the only acceptable answer is God’s remark to Job, “Where were you when I established the earth?”

In other words, a human being can see only a tiny fragment of the universe, an infinitesimally small bit of time and space. Our vantage point is much like a single piece of a huge jigsaw puzzle, a tiny fragment of the whole picture, which makes no sense on its own. Only when the entire puzzle is assembled do we realize how this odd-shaped piece fits properly. Since no human being can have a view of the totality of the universe in both time and space, we cannot possibly grasp the meaning of one tiny fragment of it.

This explanation does not tell us why the innocent may suffer, but only why there cannot be a satisfactory explanation. Acceptance of suffering therefore requires faith in a Creator who designed the universe with a master plan in which everything that happens has a valid reason. This belief may not comfort a sufferer nor prevent the sufferer from becoming angry at the Designer of the universe. The Torah does not in fact condemn the anger of the sufferer (Bava Basra 16b), but does require that he accept adversity with trust that God is just (Deuteronomy 32:4).

Acceptance does not mean approval, but it does allow us to avoid the paralyzing rage of righteous rage, and to go on with the business of living.

Today I shall …

… try to realize that nothing ever happens that is purposeless, and that I must go on living even when I disapprove of the way the world operates.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Tevet 23”
Aish.com

Which in my mind, leads to this:

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

attributed to Plato

I’m trying to write a more optimistic counterpoint to my earlier “Shemot” commentary, but I’m not doing a very good job. I can’t seem to summon up the will, the trust, or whatever it takes to just say “God is good,” and leave it at that. I continue to look at my life and at the world around me and find things that could be better (I’m employing understatement here). We’re all fighting a hard battle and we are begging God to please be kind. We don’t always receive the kindness we ask for, sometimes even in spite of our faith and trust.

But my wife sent me the link to the “law of attraction” article for a reason, so regardless of what I see or what I think about it, perhaps it wouldn’t hurt (and maybe…just maybe it would help) to be a little more trusting and optimistic.

My wife was listening to “When the Heart Cries” by Sarit Hadad on YouTube the other evening. Somehow, it seems appropriate to include that in this “extra meditation” as well.

Shemot: Trusting God

trust2In this week’s Torah portion the Torah tells us “There arose a new king over Egypt who did not know Joseph.” There is a disagreement whether it was truly a new king or whether the king (Pharaoh) chose to ignore any debt of gratitude to Joseph and his people for saving Egypt and the world from the 7 year famine. Obviously, trusting in people — especially heads of governments — is problematic. Who do you trust? Who can you trust?

In my youth there was a television show entitled, “Who Do You Trust?” The show was not entitled “Is There Anyone You Trust?,” because, in the end all of us trust in someone or something. People trust in their intelligence, their power, their charm, their knowledge, their connections, their political candidate, and in their wealth. For those who trust (or trusted…) in their wealth, it is ironic that on the American dollar bill it advises “In God We Trust.”

Ultimately, what will help all of us to weather these difficult times is strengthening our trust in God. Trust in God gives a person peace of mind, the ability to relax and to be free of stress and worry. It helps one to deal with frustrations and difficulties.

Like all intelligent discussions, we first have to start with a definition. Trust in God is believing, knowing, internalizing that all that the Almighty does for us if for our good. It is knowing that the Almighty loves us greater than any love one human being can have for another person. He totally knows and understands us and our personal situations. Only the Almighty has the power to impact your situation. He has a track record. You can rely on Him. Everything the Almighty does for you is a gift; there are no strings attached.

-Rabbi Kalman Packouz
“Who Do You Trust?”
Commentary on Torah Portion Shemot
Aish.com

That sounds fine as far as it goes, but it’s not as simple as all that. Trusting in God does not mean that you are guaranteed a problem-free life. In fact, as we’ve recently seen, Many people suffer horrible tragedy and tremendous loss regardless of their trust, or lack thereof, in God. The hurricane devastates the righteous and unrighteous alike and loss of a child will break anyone’s heart.

However, Rabbi Packouz provides a handy list of 7 Principles for Trusting in God for our review. Here they are:

  1. The Creator of the universe loves me more than anybody else in the world possibly can.
  2. The Almighty is aware of all my struggles, desires and dreams. All I need is to ask Him for help.
  3. The Almighty has the power to give me anything I want.
  4. There is no other power in the universe other than the Almighty. Only He can grant me success and give me what I want.
  5. The Almighty has a track record for giving me more than I am asking for.
  6. The Almighty gives with no strings attached. I don’t need to earn it or deserve it. He will give it to me anyway.
  7. The Almighty knows what is best for me and everything He does is only for my good.

Although Christianity and Judaism are two different religions (with a common root), I think the list above can be applied just as well to the non-Jewish believer as to the Jewish person.

Does God love you more than anybody else in the world can? The New Testament is full of comments about God’s love, the most obvious being John 3:16. Yes, God does love you and He loves me, and He loves all Christians, and all Jews, and all Muslims, and all Buddhists, and all human beings who have ever lived and who will ever lived.

And yet disaster can strike at any moment and human history is replete with tragedies and disasters. The road of our lives and the lives of all who came before us is littered with broken bodies and broken hearts and broken spirits.

Certainly God is aware of all our needs and struggles since nothing is hidden from Him, but point two suggests that all we have to do to be relieved of our pain is to ask Him for help. Does everyone who has a sincere faith and prays to God receive immediate relief from suffering? Ask the parents of those children who were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary school.

God really does have the power to give you, me, and everyone else anything we want, but that doesn’t mean He will grant us anything we want. In fact, it is very likely that God will not grant us anything we really want most of the time.

From a Christian’s, Jew’s, or Muslim’s point of view, there is only one power in the universe: God. Only God can grant success and comfort. But as I already said, there’s a difference between what He can do and what He will do.

Does God have a track record of giving us more than what we ask for? I’m not even sure how to measure such a thing. I think that’s probably true in some cases, but not in others. Ask six million Jews who died during the Holocaust while praying for God to grant them mercy. Was death the only mercy He decided to give?

no-strings-attachedGod gives with no strings attached. Hmmm. Is that true? Probably in more cases than not, but there’s a presupposition that even in giving, God is trying to get our attention, especially if those receiving His gifts do not have faith. On the other hand, referring back to John 3:16, God is the grand master of unconditional love, so who am I to talk?

God knows what is best for me. I can’t argue against that and this seventh point could be used to explain the other six. We may ask for something and not get it and then conclude that we didn’t get what we wanted because it wasn’t good for us. On the other hand, the parents of 26 murdered children only want this all to be a bad dream and for their precious little ones to be restored to them. Is that not “good for them?”

No, I’m not trying to be a downer and “diss” trusting in God, but such an abiding trust is difficult to come by.

Blessed are You, O God … Who has provided me my every needs.

-Siddur

One of the great tzaddikim lived in abject poverty, yet always had a happy disposition. He was asked how he managed to maintain so pleasant an attitude in the face of such adverse conditions.

“Each day I pray to God to provide all my needs,” he said. “If I am poor, that means that one of my needs is poverty. Why should I be unhappy if I have whatever I need?”

Tzaddikim are great people and we are little people who may not always be able to achieve the intensity of trust in God that would allow us to accept adversity with joy. But even if we cannot attain it to the highest degree, we should be able to develop some sincere trust.

When our children are little, we as parents know what they need. They might prefer a diet of sweets, but we give them nourishing foods. They certainly despise receiving painful injections that immunize them against dreadful diseases, but we forcibly subject them to these procedures because we know what is good for them.

Some people do not believe in God. But to those that do, why not realize that He knows our needs better than we do, and that even some very unpleasant experiences are actually for our own betterment?”

Today I shall…

try to bear adversity with less anger and resentment, remembering that God is a compassionate Father, and that He gives me that which He knows, far better than I, that I truly need.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Tevet 20”
Aish.com

The Hebrew word bitachon is typically translated as “trust” in English, but that hardly does it justice. Trusting God isn’t about God always giving us what we want or us experiencing God as always doing what we think of as good. It’s the realization that God is always good regardless of our experiences.

Consider any of the “holy men” you may admire and revere from the Bible. From Abraham to Paul, they all led less than perfect lives. Yes, God granted them many gifts, but He also allowed much hardship. Abraham and Sarah were childless and without an heir for most of their lives and into extreme old age until God granted them Isaac. Jacob was hated by his brother Esau, kept in virtual slavery by his relative Laban for twenty years, his daughter was raped and held captive, his favorite son Joseph was lost and presumed dead. Another son Judah married outside of the Hebrews and two of his three sons died. Joseph was a slave and a prisoner for years in a strange land before being elevated to great power, but only on the condition that he conceal his identity, even from his own brothers. When Joseph died, every one of his descendants for generations was kept as slaves in Egypt. Even their rescuer Moses was unable to lead his people into Canaan and instead wandered with them in the desolate wilderness for forty years until finally dying with almost everyone else in his generation without walking in Israel for himself.

Dietrich BonhoefferThe “saints” of the New Testament fared no better. Consider the stoning of Stephen, the harsh life of Paul leading only to death in Rome, and the martyrdom of Peter and every other Apostle. No, trust and faith did not result in comfort of life.

No, trust in God cannot be based on experience with God because if it were, none of these people would have been able to trust Him. In fact it seems that one must trust God in spite of our life experience. Rabbi Packouz’s list does little good, since God does not perform good on command. Knowing that God can spare us pain and suffering doesn’t help and is a bitter irony when God doesn’t spare us pain and suffering. Job’s most famous line (for me) illustrates what it is to trust in God.

Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.

Job 13:15 (ESV)

This gives us a picture of the Jewish method of trusting God, since it doesn’t preclude telling God how we feel about what’s happening to us.

Rabbi Twerski tells us that only a great tzaddik, a very holy and spiritual person, can truly trust God at the level I’m talking about here. But he also says that it’s not impossible for we “ordinary folk” to trust God, either. In his own declaration on the matter, Rabbi Twerski states, Today I shall try to bear adversity with less anger and resentment, remembering that God is a compassionate Father, and that He gives me that which He knows, far better than I, that I truly need.

In our own times of hardship and anguish, maybe this is the best we can do as well.

For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

2 Corinthians 4:5-12 (ESV)

Good Shabbos.