Jews are People of Hope

February 2018 Newsletter Article

For over ten years I have participated in a monthly Spiritual Direction group with colleagues.  We have been witnesses to each other’s spiritual questions and struggles.  We have respectfully listened to each other and because of this collaborative journey, we have been blessed with periodic moments of personal insight.  More often than not, we have been strengthened by one another’s companionship and friendship.  In rare moments, perhaps we have even felt a presence of something that some would call grace, some would call holiness and some might even call God.

The experience of participating in this group has taught me many things about my personal spiritual journey, one element of which I would like to share with you.  For me, one of the greatest gifts that Judaism has given to me is the presence, responsibility and opportunity of hope.  Many Jews call themselves the “People of the Book”.  For me, although, clearly there is truth in that sentiment, I resonate more the sense that as Jews we are people of hope. 

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote, “Judaism is a religion of details, but we miss the point if we do not sometimes step back and see the larger picture. To be a Jew is to be an agent of hope in a world serially threatened by despair. Every ritual, every mitzvah, every syllable of the Jewish story, every element of Jewish law, is a protest against escapism, resignation or the blind acceptance of fate. Judaism is a sustained struggle, the greatest ever known, against the world that is, in the name of the world that could be, should be, but is not yet. There is no more challenging vocation. Throughout history, when human beings have sought hope they have found it in the Jewish story.”

Today was a day that my Spiritual Direction group met, and on a cold, dark, rainy, rainy day, we talked about hope.  Together we reflected on a Chinese teaching that the New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff recently quoted. “Hope is like a path in the countryside:  At first there is nothing and then because people walk this way again and again, a path appears.”  I am not sure what this teaching will spark within you, but for me, I found myself thinking about the phrase in Debbie Friedman’s Mi Sheberach, “help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing….”  For me, each and every day that I witness people who are able to find the courage to live lives of blessing, I am inspired by hope.  I have come to know that this hope for me, must find an expression through action.  As Rabbi Sacks wrote, Judaism calls us to act, to struggle and when needed to protest, to work for a world that could be….I share this with you, with the HOPE, that you too might consider joining me on that path.