Sorting Through Confusion
By Jo Strausz Rosen
How many times have we said aloud, “Oh no, not again,” as we hear more troubling news from the radio, or television, or newspaper reporter? Brooding, we take a seat, perhaps momentarily losing our sense of purpose, as we add another log to our bonfire of worries. “Oh no, not again.” With so much uncertainty in the world, there is one thing we can say with 100% certainty: we all will leave this earth one way or another. Our certain demise is a fact of life.
Every day, we are reminded of the frightening and sobering but real fact of our mortality and vulnerability. We must continue to prepare ourselves to be strong. From our High Holy Days service, we read annually, “Who will live and who will die? Who will perish by fire and who by water? Who by sword and who by beast? Who by hunger and who by thirst? Who by earthquake and who by the plague? Who by strangling and who by stoning? Who will be at rest and who will wander? Who will have serenity and who will be confused? Who will be tranquil and who will be tormented? Who will become poor and who will become wealthy? Who will be low and who will be uplifted?
My purpose is not to dwell in maudlin or depressing thoughts. We must acknowledge our own mortality and the mortality of those we love. But we can look to the wisdom and compassion of others to give us strength.
I asked Dr. Charles Silow, Jewish Senior Life director of the Program for Holocaust Survivors and Families to comment on how he remains strong in his faith. He said, “We should try our best not to be swallowed up by bad news. Stop watching the tv so much, turn off the radio. Don’t lose sight that we are here… now…. alive… and we must appreciate what we have and remember to count our blessings. It could be worse. We must do what we can to help others less fortunate. We must love life and find joy and happiness.”
If we are not focused on every moment, seeking peace and joy, and leading lives with meaning, our unconscious thoughts can distract us and take us down the rabbit hole of pessimism. I often reach for Rabbi Harold Kushner’s book, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” I take comfort in the Rabbi’s thoughtful words of wisdom that offer clear thinking and consolation. I like to think now, and, in the times ahead, about the opportunities during the Ten Days of Repentance to inspire hope in each of us. And, if you are afraid of NOT being inscribed in the Book of Life during the High Holy Days, how would you go about making a change now?
“Gd of truth, Help me sort through the dizzying confusion of my life.
My mind swirls with all that I’ve seen, all that I’ve read, all that’s happened to me.
Teach me to focus, to prioritize, to see with clarity, so that I can move on with my life.”
From The Gentle Weapon, Prayers for Everyday and Not-So-Everyday Moments, Timeless Wisdom from the Teachings of the Hasidic Master, Rebbe Nachman of Breslof