I have such a list of worries at this time!
Race relations, the climate, abortion rights, Iranian nukes and Israel’s security. I am worried about Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, and these worries are very real to me as I have so much family in Israel.
I am worried about the future of democracy in the United States.
These worries would be more than enough in a “normal year.”
This year however, there is the fact that one in three Americans have experienced some sort of difficulty because of climate change this summer. Floods, fires, water shortages and extreme heat have become much more prevalent than in past summers.
Having retired, I have been visiting family in Jerusalem for the summer. Summers in Jerusalem are usually quite nice. However, in the past two months in Jerusalem, there were only six days wherein the high temperature did not exceed 90 degrees.
But it is not simply Jerusalem. It is literally all over the world! Heatstroke has become much more common and its effect on older people has sometimes been deadly.
I used to look forward to summer. I do not think that I will be looking forward to summer next year.
And then there is COVID-19. One friend of mine lost his mom this year to COVID-19 and another friend lost his 45-year-old daughter.
Now we have to deal with the Delta variant. Within our families, children, middle-age adults and the elderly have contracted the virus. Still others have had to battle the virus in their own bodies, often with long term effects.
And then there are those who have lost loved ones. May their memories be a blessing!
So, even for those among us who have been vaccinated, we are now left wondering whether or not the vaccine shots will be enough. Will someone in our family get sick? Will we?
And to this we should also add that as always, there are those in our congregations whose relationships with loved ones need repair.
There is a great deal that we all have to worry about even in the best of times. But now, in this reality, our anxiety is compounded.
For Jews, the fall brings what we call our High Holy Days, including the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah and, 10 days later, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
I have often joked with Christian clergy that what rabbis are forced to endure at this time would be the equivalent of having Easter 10 days after Christmas!
For the first time in 46 years, I was not in the pulpit on either Rosh Hashanah (Sept. 6-8, 2021) or Yom Kippur (Sept. 15-16, 2021).
That did not bother me, but my family did not wish for me to attend services in person. So, I watched services online. The services were great, but it is not the same as being in person.
Yes, I am worried and anxious. I am hurting and so are many people I know.
It is, indeed, a difficult time to be congregational clergy. People are hurting out there. They need us to provide pastoral care, both in and out of the pulpit.
Maybe, at this time, we need to focus our attention on the suffering of those in the pews.
The larger issues which we face are not going to go away, but still our folks need us to provide comfort now! I can only hope that clergy will they address our worries, our anxieties and our hurts.
Perhaps there has not been in recent memory a time when it was more important for clergy – many of whom are hurting themselves – to address the hurts of congregants, to give hope and consolation and to try to engender a sense of tikkun nefesh (repair of the soul) and peace.
At this time of the year, we Jews say to one another “Gmar Hatimah Tovah!” This means “May we all be signed and sealed by God for a blessing in the Book of Life, health and peace!”
May it only be so!