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Time to Look Up

04/20/2021 08:03:00 PM

Apr20

Last year at this time, it made perfect sense that I would write about time and counting. Then, as now, we were in the Omer period, the 49 days between the second night of Passover and the eve of Shavuot, which celebrates the gift of Torah. Then, as now, we were grappling with the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic. Now, though, there is a different weightiness to the sentiment from the psalm I quoted in last year’s blog post: teach us to count our days so that we may open our hearts. Counting our days, these days, is rough.
 
Yes, we would expect things to be different in 5781 from the ways they were in 5780. We, our dear ones, our pets and our neighbours, are a year older. Sadly, some have said a final farewell to their beloved. But for all of us, instead of looking at the counting of days as drawing us closer to the full expression of safety and communal well-being that we might have anticipated this year, we are facing a situation that is VUCA - volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous.
 
VUCA is an acronym I learned last week, the week before you are likely seeing this post, as I prepared for a 2-week break from congregational and hospital work. For the first few days of my “staycation” I’ll be virtually attending a joint conference of the NAJC (Neshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains), to which I belong, and the Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies (NJHSA). The conference home page presented the term in the description of a plenary session about “Thriving in a Turbulent COVID-19 World.”
 
While the session situates its inquiry in the realm of Human Services organizations, its relevance on any scale - sacred or secular, individual or collective - is startlingly poignant. Planning a simcha, or perhaps mourning rituals? Engaging in shabbat or weekday learning for yourself, or for your school-age children? Figuring out how to get a vaccine, or how to advocate for their availability to those who need it most? Coping with spiritual, emotional, financial, or physical distress? In the context of sudden and unpredictable changes, uncertain information, divergent perspectives from leaders, and confusing messaging, VUCA is feeling far more present for us than anything else we might be counting on.
 
While VUCA and this SARS-CoV-2 virus may be new for us, vast changes to our global landscape are as old as the earth itself. When upheaval threatens to engulf, and we seek direction, resources, inspiration, so many of the guiding metaphors involve looking “up.” From the still-relevant Psalm 90 passage about counting our days, I page over to Psalm 121 – I lift my eyes to the mountains, where does my help come from? In this lilting, bluegrass version, Doni Zasloff and Eric Lindberg of Nefesh Mountain hold off at first on the answer. When they eventually sing my help comes from Adonay, it really sounds to me, especially listening to it in this moment, like they are singing from up high.
 
Lifting our spirits, elevating our hopes, holding each other up, getting ourselves closer to the mountain – indeed, it’s where we are in the Omer, journeying towards our mythic re-encounter on Sinai. We can do this: count our blessings, count on each other, lift each other up and look up towards the expansiveness of possibility and transformation. Ken yehi ratzon – so may it be.
 
Rabbi Liz

Tue, June 22 2021 12 Tammuz 5781