Finding our Place

I’ve been thinking recently about being lost & being found. Having been to several B’nei Mitzvah lately (you’d think I have a 13-year-old son or something!) I have witnessed over and over again that lovely tradition that maybe you’ve seen so much you’ve forgotten to see it: the way that those gathered around the Torah scrolls help the reader to find his or her place, and the way the reader in turn shows the place to those giving the blessings for the aliyah. It’s a simple thing, but the metaphor is rich. Those who give voice to the teaching – and those who are gathered round to bear witness – they have each other’s backs. Sometimes the person seemingly in the driver’s seat needs someone in the passenger seat to read the map, to point the way, to say, “This is where we are now. You are among friends, and we will not let you be lost.”

The first time I received a call from a congregant whose husband was dying, I heard the pain and fear in her voice: “Naomi, I’m lost. I don’t know what to do. Charles is dying and I don’t know where to start.” I had been to visit with him recently, so I knew that this was not a surprising turn. Still, when it is real, it is real. With all the courage I could muster, I said to her, “I’m lost too. We’ll be lost together.” I spoke with her about calling the funeral home, about aninut and aveilut, about the value of sitting shiva, even though neither she nor her husband thought themselves to be religious. While she did not see herself as worthy of claiming that part of the tradition, I knew that sitting still with her community and allowing them to take care of her would benefit her in ways that she couldn’t imagine.

Sometimes confusion seems to swirl around us, and it is easy to lose our way. What anchors us? What holds us steady in trying times? For me, the answer is – always – community. When I am overwhelmed, or when I have more sadness than I know what to do with, nothing brings my life back into perspective like time spent in community, a call from a friend, or even just a thumbs-up on Facebook.

We read in Psalms: “Essa einai el he-Harim, I lift my eyes to the mountains. Where will I find help?”

For me, the help that comes from the people around me is the help that comes from Adonai. My community is G-d’s hands and feet, as I hope to be for others who are in need. Sometimes you’re the one holding fast to the scroll with sure knowledge of your place, and sometimes you’re the one whose eyes search and search. Knowing that we each have the capacity for both roles strengthens us to fulfill them. Go and learn it.

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