|The rabbis of the Institute’s Fourth Rabbinic Leadership Initiative cohort, a close-knit group that has been studying together for nearly three years, have been writing to each other in recent days to offer support, blessings, and encouragement, as their East Coast colleagues brace their synagogues, families, and communities for the expected onslaught of Hurricane #Sandy. Institute Fellow Noam Zion, who works with the rabbinic group, wrote them this note.
By NOAM ZION
It is good to hear your mutual encouragement in the back and forth of emails. Today and yesterday my grandchildren missed school due to disturbances from the air. My three grandchildren in Beer Sheva faced closed schools and ganim (kindergartens) after a Grad rocket flew from Gaza and hit Beer Sheva. My two grandchildren in New York City missed school today because of another "windfall," while their parents were stuck in New Orleans on a celebratory getaway weekend without kids.
Now suddenly that flood and Job's wind approaches the doorsteps and shul steps of our Eastern states communities. This is a threat we can predict to a certain extent, but we cannot control. It puts us back into the hands of God, a mysterious Jobian God.
Job's protests are heroic when he is being singled out by a Divine wager, but he justifiably falls silent when God gives him the big picture that his suffering is accidental to Divine processes of creation from chaos - a chaos that always remains a living possibility.
This is a religious moment of a power that fascinates as well as terrifies, that puts us in our place in the scheme of things as it threatens to blow our place off the map. I think with a smile about the Coen Brothers' film, A Serious Man, their Minneapolis tale of Job. Remember the last scene, with the approaching whirlwind threatening all the Hebrew school kids - with their petty sins. (It was filmed in my father's shul and that was literally my Hebrew school. It recalls a big Bar Mitzvah year in Ethan Coen's life, when in 1967 no fewer than five lethal tornadoes hit Minnesota). The movie asks whether the tornado could be a punishment for hidden sins from a hidden God.
This new hurricane, Sandy, is not about guilt and punishment, but about the kind of solidarity and will to rebuild that Uri's community showed.
May you find the wisdom and hope and energy to lead your communities through crises of this kind.
PS: What Tehillim, prayers, or other lessons do you recommend for each other, your communities, and those who are concerned for your safety?