I conducted an interesting experiment as a prelude to writing these words. I entered into Google’s search engine the phrase “antidote to despair”. I found the results intriguing. Among the suggested antidotes to despair were the following: “action”, “collaboration”, “solidarity”.
Many of us awaken each morning, sometimes from troubled sleep, with the taste of despair in our mouths. Between the deepening crisis in Syria, unresolved questions about Russia’s interference with our country’s elections, growing threats to civil rights, rising levels of animus towards Muslim-Americans, the ascendancy of white supremacist ideology and the growth of hate-groups, there is no shortage of things about which we have cause to worry.
We respond to our concerns in different ways. Some of us have dedicated ourselves to communicating our concerns to our elected representatives; some fire off letters to the editor or post comments in online forums; some take to the streets, placards in hand; some send financial support to organizations and causes that are committed to addressing the problems which concern us. All are helpful responses to despair.
Allow me to suggest two helpful responses that are closer to home. The are, in fact, to be found within the walls of our beloved congregation.
The first will take place on Sunday, May 7th when we gather to participate in Mitzvah Day. Coordinated by our Social Action Committee, this day affords us a number of worthwhile activities with which to engage to help make a difference in congregation, in our community and in our world. The feelings engendered by engaging in tikkun olam–the repair of a blemished world–are an excellent antidote to despair. Sharing that experience with other FJC members deeply enhances that experience.
A further antidote to despair will be available to us on Saturday morning, May 13th when the first member of this year’s b’nei mitzvah class is called to the Torah. Lest you think that the future is an unrelieved, dark canvas, come and find inspiration and hope in seeing members of the up-and-coming generation as they demonstrate their skills as prayer-leaders, as teachers of Torah and as beacons of hope.
While despair is an understandable consequence of living in deeply challenging times, our faith tradition demands of us a different response....hope that is rooted in commitment, collaboration, and action.