From the Pen of Executive Director Alison C. Brown
The Joseph story with its many turns of fate is compelling on many levels. The events of his life speak to us of the vicissitudes of mind, body, and spirit that we all experience. I too have found myself at the bottom of a pit hollowed out by the loss of a loved one. While we all intellectually understand the bittersweet nature of human existence, when there is seemingly no way out and the bitter becomes caustic it’s impossible to make sense of it.
Work as we may to focus on the sweet gifts of life, the daily news tosses us time and time again into more pits: a toddler is gunned down, terror is orchestrated in Paris, our kinsmen stabbed in Israel. I close my eyes and find footing in the Shema. Connecting with the One I hear myself asking, “help me keep the faith in me and in You”, You who are the One and Whole of everything and everyone. Shaleim, whole, comes from the Hebrew root as shalom, peace. When we are of the Whole we find peace. Help me keep faith in my being a part of the Whole, a resourceful, loving part of the Whole — a kind and justice-seeking part of God. Help me help.
In Gen. 37:13 Israel tells Joseph to check on his brother’s welfare. Joseph says “hinneni”. Rashi, who earlier interpreted hinneni to mean, “I am here, at your service,” tells us that Joseph’s hinneni includes humility as well as readiness. Cast into one of life’s pits are we humbly ready to do whatever needs doing? To climb out of the pit, to do what needs doing takes faith. We need faith in our self that we will find the courage, the stamina to move through the bitter times in life. We, like Joseph, are sometimes part of plot we don’t understand yet with intent we can play our part in support of the Whole.
My Shema moments remind me to get out of my own head, to be in communication with all of creation, all of the worlds, beyond space and time. To move beyond what seems to be going right or wrong, easy or difficult for me. When tested, Joseph finds his inner strength. We too can find ours, but we have to listen. A moment of Hitbodedut (meditation), a Shema moment, or walking in a forest preserve allows us to climb out of the pit and with humility meet the task we have been given. Every story has elements of choice. May we make our choices from makom shalom, from a place of peace, a place of the Whole.