Spiritual Drought

As I write these words, I look out my window at a much longed-for rainy day. Cape Cod has been experiencing a hot, dry summer and because all of the Cape draws upon a single-source aquifer. in times of near-drought water restrictions are imposed on an ever-increasing basis. Because the Cape’s population triples in the summer, demand for water is proportionately higher.

While we certainly give thanks that we do not live in fire-ravaged parts of the country, and do not need to fear the kind of water-deprivation facing millions of people in the Colorado River-dependent southwest, it is hard to watch lovingly-nurtured landscaping become desiccated and to realize that, even here on Cape Cod, there is a danger of fire when we experience drought-like conditions. So we scan our weather apps, hoping for news of moisture-laden weather fronts coming our way.

But what should we do when the drought we’re facing is spiritual, when the news of the world shrivels our souls?

There is no end of challenging news that comes our way from any news source to which we might turn: the ongoing war in Ukraine, outbreaks of fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad, devastating forest fires in the West, the threat to women’s reproductive health and well-being, the growing threat of autocracy both internationally and domestically. Each of us could compose our own laundry list of things that keep us awake at night.

It’s in such moments that I turn to the wisdom of Jewish traditions to remind myself of what I can, and cannot, do in the face of events that threaten to wither my soul.

Here’s what I cannot do: alter Vladimir Putin’s deadly egomania; reverse global warming; convince those who believe that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent that they are dangerously deluded, magically reverse SCOTUS’s terrible scuttling of Roe v. Wade.

But here’s what I can do: channel donations to address the needs of those suffering in Ukraine; support and advocate for clean-energy alternatives to fossil fuels; donate to, and work for, candidates who will champion the values I embrace; support organizations helping women in need of abortions.

Another important component in addressing “spiritual drought” is that of self-care, finding ways and creating opportunities to recharge our spiritual batteries. We can do so by taking walks in some beautiful corner of the Cape, building in breaks from our consumption of news, retreating for a time into a good novel or volume of poetry, playing your favorite recording of Bach preludes (or whatever music floats your musical boat!), engaging in “pet therapy” (spending quality time with your animal companions, a time-tested way to lower your blood-pressure and decrease anxiety.) When the “macro” (i.e. world news) overwhelms, go “micro” (volunteer locally, walk a nearby beach.)

In a few short weeks we will enter a new Jewish year. As has always been the case, that moment affords us an important opportunity to recalibrate our response to the world and to chart a new, and hopefully better, course for the new year, one in which we find ourselves better able to weather the episodes of “spiritual drought” that inevitably come our way.

I wish all of us a 5,783 filled with perseverance, stamina and faith as we engage in the time-honored work of tikkun olam, doing our part in repairing a blemished world.

L’shana tovah tikatevu...may you be inscribed for a fulfilling year!

Reb Elias