Resilience in Endings . . . and New Beginnings

Last in a series on resilience in Jewish spiritual life.

For a whole year's Torah cycle of weeks, we've been looking to Torah for resilience lessons. We began with Cain as an unlikely resilience teacher.  We learned resilience from Noah in the rain and Abraham never quitting because he loved more than himself.  We learned resilience from Rebecca, the first to really question God.  We learned resilience from supposed enemies who dared to try better, from giving ourselves permission to wrestle like Jacob did, and from right responses and wrong responses to Tamar, Torah's #metoo.  We learned resilience from Joseph's search for hope amidst despair, from everyone letting go of pretense, and then passing it forward to generations unseen.

And that was just the Book of Genesis. 

A whole year about resilience, and now the year is ending.  And with Parshat Haazinu, also ending are Moses' life and the core narrative of a wandering people, now actually reaching a new place after 40 years.

Sometimes, stories are meant to end.  Resilience isn't just a spiritualization of the Energizer Bunny.  Resilience is knowing when to go on and how to go on – and also when to stop and how to stop.  Resilience, in this understanding, cultivates the strength to surrender to stopping.

Think about it.  Moses could have lived forever, or sailed into the sky like an un-dead Elijah.  The people Moses led could have wandered forever, or changed their destination when the going got too hard or when they themselves went astray.  

Emphatically, those alternative plots aren't Torah's story – or ours.

Moses becomes our ultimate resilience teacher precisely by preparing to die, by singing his swan song,  by transmitting his hopes and learning, and by offering his strengths and legitimacy to a next generation that will need to find its own way under new leadership (Deut. 32).  Moses teaches that resilience isn't the narcissistic self-directed province of any individual alone.  Rather, resilience resides in the continuity and camaraderie of community and its a legacy, its journey, its ongoing story.

So while this year's blog cycle is ending, the resilience story never ends – even amidst death.  After a Yom Kippur that rehearses death as the final resilience lesson for living, the Torah cycle will begin again.  In this new cycle, we'll join Bayit: Your Jewish Home on a year-long journey about building the Jewish future.  What could be more resilient than building the future, and the call to build itself?  That call is Moses' call, handed to Joshua, lifted over the Jordan River into a new land to lay a new foundation.  And that call is yours.

From all of us at The Jewish Studio, g'mar chatimah tovah – may you and your loved ones be sealed for a year of goodness, for resilience, and for building a vibrant future together.

– Rabbi David Evan Markus