My return to normal life continues. I began teaching my Tuesday morning class, Nosh and Knowledge, at the Fair Lawn Jewish Center/Congregation B’nai Israel. When I first arrived at the synagogue we began studying the Torah from the beginning of the Book of Genesis, slowly going verse by verse. Now, twelve years later we have finished four and a half of the five Books of the Torah. We are continuing our studies from the middle of the Book of Deuteronomy. Anyone reading this who would like to join us, consider yourself invited. Bagels and beverages are provided and we start at 11:30 am.
Normal has meant that I have been attending Shabbat services at FLJC/CBI regularly, going back to my local internist for my yearly physical, attending a Broadway show, Oklahoma!, and joining Retro Fitness to exercise indoors as the weather has become colder. I had my now monthly visit to my transplant surgeon, Dr. Keyzner, this week. All looks good with some minor matters that will need some follow up.
I was asked to deliver the d’var Torah at the FLJC/CBI recently on a Shabbat when Rabbi Shargel was out of town. I want to thank her for allowing me that opportunity. I spoke about the Torah portion Noah. Here is a brief summary of my sermon.
The Biblical text as well as the midrash notices Noah’s reluctance to leave the ark after the flood and even after he sees that the land is dry. Why didn’t he just disembark? One ancient scholar, Rabbi Yehuda ben Ilai said that had he been there he would have broken down the doors of the Ark to leave. I suppose he was thinking about being cooped up for so long, not to mention the smell. Why didn’t Noah just leave? One commentary says that Noah was afraid of the uncertainty that the future would bring. It was easier after riding out the flood in the ark to just stay put. It can be unnerving to move forward in life and make decisions. Maybe some of those choices would lead to negative consequences. The Bible tells us that Noah did not leave the ark until God specifically told him to go. We all face uncertainties in life but we can’t wait for God to speak to us and give us directions.
During the last year and a half, I faced many uncertainties. I had to decide whether or not to have the bone marrow transplant. I was faced with a very slow recovery not knowing how it would go, or if I would succumb to complications. How does one live facing an uncertain future? What sustained me? I thought of the 23rd Psalm. There we read, “Even if I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear evil, for You are with me.” The psalmist was able to move forward in a perilous place because he knew he was not alone, God was with him. I felt that my faith accompanied me and I was not alone because I had my family, the medical professionals, my friends, my congregation, and my community all with me. I thought of the mitzvoth, good deeds, I have done in my life. Those actions enriched me and gave me the fortitude to move on, knowing I had an effect on many others and created bonds to the long history of the Jewish people.
Life is full of uncertainties, from the ridiculous, should I buy this cantaloupe, even if I am unsure if it will ripen and be tasty, to the more significant ones, what job should I take, where should I live? I learned that lesson very clearly this past year and I now look to the future.