“For You, O God, silence is praise!” (Psalm 65:1)
In the face of the hurricane that devastated the lives of many and disrupted our lives, silence is appropriate.
There are no words to convey our feelings.
There are no words to express our relief that we are still here and that though our property may have suffered damage, we are still here.
This season is one of renewal and atonement. Rosh Hashanah celebrates the creation of the world. More specifically it celebrates the values of Genesis creation story.
For me the “Truth” of that story is that our lives have purpose and meaning and that we humans-–not the alligator or the shark—are in charge of and responsible for the quality of life on our planet.
God’s hope, I believe, is that we humans will use our individual talents to forge a just, caring and compassionate society on this planet.
A natural disaster like Hurricane Irma challenges those ideals but has the potential to strengthen them. We must find the strength to re-create our world.
Silence and reflection help us find that strength.
One of my favorite prayers is (from the URJ’s Shabbat Manual): “Help us O God, to distinguish between that which is real and enduring and that which is fleeting and vain.”
Our house, our car, our boat our furniture, our whatever —they all mean a lot to us. They represent years of hard work and pride in what we have achieved. But at the end of the day all of these things are “fleeting and vain.”
How we live, and how we use the opportunities we have to help one another … these are the real and enduring bases on which we build meaningful futures.
Perhaps silence is the place to start.
Confronted with the disastrous sudden death of his two sons, Aaron, the High Priest of Israel was silent (Leviticus 10:10).
Thankfully the impact of Irma on most of us has been less devastating, but silence is still an apt response. To listen with empathy to our friends and neighbor as they describe their losses and is a great gift. To silently contemplate how we might best help others at this time is another.
But then we must move forward.
We cannot undo Irma’s’ impact, but the future is ours to shape.
My prayer is that we come together as a community—no matter where we live–and face that future with hope and courage.