This blog for all of you who weren’t at Shabbat with us last Friday to hear my “sermon”…
I awoke in my hotel room in Florida to a dark and drizzly day. I had arrived a day early for my Ordination weekend, and there I was, in a beach front hotel, beckoned by the sound of those east coast sand-breaking waves. I had a few hours to spare, and my plan had been to spend them on the beach or swimming in the hotel’s pool. But, alas, the storm clouds didn’t seem to be going anywhere.
I decided it wasn’t raining that hard, so I zipped on my rain jacket and set off to take a walk on the beach anyway. After all, I was there.
I walked along the sand, nodding happily at others who braved the rain for their morning exercise. The rain got a little stronger, so I put on my hood. Next thing I knew, it was pouring… wind blowing my hair into my eyes, the waves taking on a bit of an ominous crash as they slammed onto the narrow beach.
“I wonder if this is how Moses felt in the story of the crossing of the Red Sea?” I thought to myself as I continued on. Of course, he had waves on both sides, but I started imagining what the weather would have been like in order for two giant waves to be created, so tall that there would be shallow enough water between them to just walk on through. I imagined water splashing in the peoples’ faces and great gusts of wind blowing and the sounds of crashing and thrashing waters. The Israelites of the story must have been frightened, exhilarated, panicked, full of awe and full of dread, walking through a storm in order to start the first day of the rest of their lives.
It was interesting that on that rainy walk, I, too, was feeling frightened, exhilarated, a little panicky, and full of both awe and dread, for I knew that the next day, I was to be ordained a Rabbi. And not just any Rabbi… a rule-breaking, alternative, fight the system, Universalist Rabbi. Yes, I was headed toward the first day of the rest of my life but with that came doubt and a nasty voice in my head that said I didn’t deserve it.
I think that for many of us, whenever we are faced with a great newness in our lives, but especially those of our choosing and those not of the “usual path”, we feel as if we are walking through a rain storm by the sea. We have internal waves crashing within us, symbolic wind blowing our hair over our eyes so we can’t see clearly, and sometimes it feels as if there is a very narrow path for us to navigate, where one slight loss of focus might land us in the surf.
When we find ourselves in such situations, it is natural to look behind us and consider returning “home” and forgetting the whole endeavor. The Jewish people certainly had their doubts on the way to and long after their journey across the sea. And yet, at some point, it is a heck of a lot easier to keep going than to turn back. In fact, when I was walking in the rain, and the pouring came down, the wind was behind me and therefore the rain was hitting the back of my head. I knew if I turned around, the rain was going to smack me right in the face, so I actually decided to keep moving further from my hotel rather than turn around. It was easier to do so, and the wind was literally at my back.
After a few minutes, the rain did let up. I took off my hood, turned around, and even caught a little sun on my face. So I walked “home”. But I did so after the storm, not to avoid it. Similarly when my internal waves were crashing, I had to just push through, fueled by love and possibility, refusing to turn around because of the voices that told me that my dream was a crazy exercise.
How many of us have dreams that may seem to others, or even to ourselves, like crazy dreams?
My friends, my community, my family… you have been the wind at my back when I needed a little nudge into the future. You were, in some ways, my Moses, leading me through the waves of uncertainty. I thank you. And in return, I want to make you all this promise:
This community… This Kehillah Sababah… This Cool Shul is here to be the wind at your back too. Share with us your dreams, your moments when you are navigating through a storm toward a 2.0 version of yourself, and we will be there with umbrellas and galoshes to cheer you on to the finish line. And personally, as your Cantor, and now, as your Rabbi, I would be honored to hold one of those umbrellas over you and walk with you toward your dreams.
I wish for all of us, the strength to weather all kinds of storms, and the power of believing in ourselves and in each other.
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