A World That is Crumbling

by Arliene Botnick, July 31, 2022

I have been reading a very special and unique book called “My Grandmother Sends Her Regards And Apologises”. It is by Fredrik Backman. It is one of the four books I read on my lovely bucolic vacation as I cruised the Rhine!

One particular sentiment and idea really resonated with me as I read this book. A young child named Elsa learns from her grandmother about how it feels to be in a world that is crumbling. Her grandmother’s answer is that we must do what everyone does and we must do everything we can. So, as I cruised in the beautiful countryside and visited cities like Amsterdam, Luxembourg and Paris, that some 80 years ago were in shambles, were being bombed, lives were being lost and farmland destroyed, I really thought about a world that is often broken but that things can always get better. We have to find the strength and the courage to get through the difficult times and never lose hope or faith!

And that is where God and Torah are there for us. Our ancestors struggled and were pained and were challenged and survived. God gave us choices, and we didn’t always make the right choice but we were never forsake. When we had to leave the Garden of Eden because we had eaten from the fruit of the forbidden tree, and we were ashamed of our nakedness, God clothed us. When Moses had to die alone on Mount Nebo, it was God who buried him. And when so many of us suffered at the hands of our enemies during World War II, those of us were able to survive bore children and more children to say that Hitler and Nazism would never win. Judaism will flourish!

Now, as we are about to begin reading the last book of Torah, Deuteronomy, we are reminded of all that our ancestors experienced and were challenged by and how, by reading their story, we can have assurance that we will survive. These past two and a half years have been difficult because of the pandemic. The ongoing strife in the Ukraine is horrific, and the economic situation of many countries is dire, and global warming is a real threat. It definitely feels like the world is crumbling. But what we learned from Torah is that we can get through this. And, as I sailed on the Rhine and saw beautiful vineyards, children playing in their backyards, guests visiting places and travelling for the first time in two years, I really understood that we can rebuild the world. We just have to do it. We have to meet the challenges we are faced with, and we have to overcome them. We know how to make things better. God has given us the tools! We know that masks work to prevent the spread of disease, that inoculations minimalize the severity of the cases, that countries can negotiate peace, and that global warming can be addressed if we all work together to make this a healthier environment for all.

God’s commandment is for us to live. When Gandhi suggested to Leo Baeck, when he was in a concentration camp, that the best solution for the Jews who were incarcerated was to commit mass suicide, Baeck responded that God’s commandment is that we live! We were given the minds and the ability to meet our challenges head-on. Things never go smoothly but they can go better. As we read Deuteronomy, and then in the Fall go back to Genesis, we learn that we have to continue to study and to benefit from God’s words and the experiences that our ancestors had and endured, and realize that we are still here today and that’s what counts.

As we look to a new year, 5783, let’s repair the world. Tikkun Olam is ours to accomplish! I wish you all health, fulfillment, strength and contentment. Shanah Tovah Umetukah

Filed under: Educator's Message

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