Rabbi’s Column in Bi-Monthly “Messenger”

Dear Friends,
In visiting my granddaughters recently, I came across a children’s book named Waiting Is Not Easy.  It is one of the “Elephant and Piggie” series of books by Mo Willens.  And, yes, I recommend this book to anyone who wants to engage a pre-school child in the art of reading and/or listening to storytelling.  However, I mention this book now because it got me thinking about the phenomenon of “waiting” in a Jewish context.

As I write these words, we are in the midst of the Jewish month of Tevet.  As you may know, this Jewish month is associated with one of the stages of the flood story that affected Noah and his family.  According to our tradition, it was in the month of Tevet that Noah first saw mountaintops appear from beneath the gradually receding floodwaters.  This sighting lifted Noah’s spirits and signaled the beginning of the eventual return of the ark to dry land!

Then and there, according to our tradition, Noah and his family praised God.  They expressed their gratitude immediately even though they understood full well that they would have to wait quite a while before they could actually leave the ark and begin a new chapter of life on dry land.

Since that time, the month of Tevet has been associated, in our tradition, with a sense of “hopeful waiting.”
More commonly known is the fact that we Jews are not strangers to “hopeful waiting” year-round.  We have a time-honored tradition of waiting for the Messiah!  True, we do not sit around and wait, twiddling our thumbs.  We actively seek to make the world a better place; a place that reflects the vision of our prophets for the Messianic era; a place in which justice, peace and mutual responsibility reign along with a deep understanding that all human beings are created in the image of God.

But, we wait, nevertheless….

And, although we often associate mitzvoth [commandments] with “good deeds,” and therefore with actions, rather than with waiting, many of our mitzvoth incorporate much of Jewish wisdom with the express purpose of helping us to craft meaningful waiting as part of our lives.
Take for instance, the mitzvoth associated with keeping kosher.  If we observe these mitzvoth, we wait between meat and dairy meals!  In doing so, we hone our capacity to eat “mindfully.”  We acknowledge the fact that our food comes to us thanks to God and thanks to many other people who have toiled so that we may provide food to our family, to our friends, to our community, and so that we ourselves may eat.  We remind ourselves that we are not entirely self-sufficient; that we are part of a tapestry of life that stems from God and includes the community of individuals who inhabit and who share this world with us.

Waiting is the backdrop of our lives in which mitzvoth, good deeds, are nourished and sustained; an essential part of that backdrop that allows us to thrive in “hopeful waiting” mode.Sometimes, waiting is not easy.  It is, in Jewish tradition, a deeply embedded spiritual exercise that grounds us in reality.  If we learn to incorporate it in our lives, waiting centers us; lifts our spirits; and keeps us hopeful, humble, and grateful!

As we wait with hopeful anticipation to see what blessings the new secular year will bring us…I take this opportunity to wish you and your loved ones a very happy and healthy 2016!