Thoughts for Shabbat

The swirl of events both at home and abroad makes keeping an even keel difficult if not almost impossible. The storm rages and calls out to us to react harshly, which can only add to the anger. Some may recall Jonah offering himself up to be sacrificed and when the sailors threw him overboard, the seas calmed. But that is not how it is here. Instead it is more like Nadav and Abihu, the priests and sons of Aaron who brought offerings ostensibly honoring God. But God rejected their alien fire and they were destroyed. The storms call out for more sacrifices but to give in would consume not only our offerings but us as well.

We are compelled to act against the injustice and the evil we see in the world around us, compelled to act against the injustice and evil that seduces its followers to do wrong while believing they champion a worthy cause.   Now more than ever, each of us is compelled to seek the wisdom of our texts, the Ethics of our Fathers, to guide us on straight paths. This Erev Shabbat, I share with you the poem “IF” by Rudyard Kipling:


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son.

Shabbat Shalom


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