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From Uncertainty to Awe

09/05/2021 10:00:30 AM

Sep5

Rabbi Jamie Arnold

One thing is certain, the uncertainty we’ve been facing for the last 18 plus months is not slipping quietly into the night.  As our High Holidays approach, many of us had high hopes for a return to what we considered normal.  But the uncertainties persist.

  • Will we be able to safely gather as a community indoors again?
  • Will schools and businesses be able to stay open and recover?
  • Will enough people get vaccinated, and the vaccines work well enough, to end the pandemic?
  • Masks on?  Masks off?  
  • Feeling like a confused Karate Kid in training?

And the collective uncertainties related to COVID-19 naturally fuel and exacerbate the personal uncertainties we face – financial challenges, changes to our work lives, relationship tensions, pandemic parenting, etc.  While economists debate the fear of inflation, the rest of us face an inflation of fear and doubt.  These are uncertain times.

My first impulse is to perceive the fear and doubt that comes with uncertainty as an obstacle in my spiritual life.  I hear Yoda’s voice in my head saying, “Fear is the path to the dark side.  Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” (Star Wars, The Phantom Menace 1999).  The student of Buddhism in me nods in agreement, as does the part of me trying to understand the resurgence of white supremacy, antisemitism, and hate crimes.  Yes, there is no doubt truth in these words.   And…

And, just as dark and light are intertwined, so too I believe, is fear integral to trust, and doubt an essential ingredient in faith.  As such, I am compelled to try to harness (rather than avoid) the fear and the doubt that is inevitable in times of uncertainty.  A recent example is worthy of mention and celebration.  

This last month, the CBE leadership was uncertain about how to proceed with the plans to build an outdoor amphitheater.  The materials placed on hold by the contactor’s had to be bought, or not.  A decision needed to be made, but we hadn’t raised all the funds needed to pay for all of phase one.  What was the prudent thing to do in the face of uncertainty?  

Earlier this summer, Iris Solomon explained that part of what inspired her to go through with inviting family and friends to celebrate an adult bat mitzvah with her during a pandemic was something her father used to say over and over.  “Don’t be afraid to ask! The worst thing that could happen is someone says, ‘No.’”  So we did ask.  In some ways, our fear and the doubt propelled the request for help.  And YOU RESPONDED!  Collectively, we raised over $30,000 within a week, bought the material, and scheduled the contractor to begin transforming our modest embankment into a miniature Red Rocks amphitheater for our own back yard.  God-willing we’ll break ground shortly after Yom Kippur, on Sunday, September 19.  Amazing!  Uncertainty transformed into AWE with your generosity.

In the coming weeks, we will be celebrating the Days of Awe [Yamim Noraim] together.  Whether you join us on-line or in-person, inside our outdoors, for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and Sukkot, I plan to engage you in a conversation about uncertainty, uncertainty and Mystery.  Together, may engage the inevitable uncertainties, fears, and doubts as assets in our effort to renew, beautify, and strengthen our individual and collective lives with trust and faith. 

Shanah Tovah u’metukah 
May you be blessed with a new year of sweet connections.   

Tue, September 28 2021 22 Tishrei 5782