“Often, it is the glory of faith simply not to know, not to know where you'll ultimately end up.
Yet to take mind, intellect, will and emotions captive and follow the naked voice of God”– Baher's Bible scribblings).
I came across these lines shared by my niece. Her husband, Baher, remains trapped in the ongoing grip of seizures which have robbed him of many of his memories and independence, but not his humanity. Nor his faith. And if his days are now more of an unending cycle of sameness in an assisted living facility, he fills much of his time praising God and assisting his neighbors.
Baher and his family each have their fears of an unknown of the future. And Baher still thanks God for the simple gift that is his life. He prays to find strength, to endure his ongoing confusion and peace within his humility. Baher also finds sweet sustenance from the love of his family and friends.
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His prayers echo a period through which Jewish time is now traveling, the counting of the Omer. This is the 49 days between Passover, the Exodus from Egypt, and the time the Jews received Torah at Mt. Sinai, the holiday of Shavuot.
During these seven weeks of counting of the Omer, many Jews recite an extra daily blessing and meditate upon the spectrum of emotions and traits, including Loving kindness, Justice, Compassion, Endurance, Humility, Bonding and Leadership. There is a blessing for each day and an aspect of each of those emotions is to be considered along with how it relates and impacts daily life.
During this time, we set a few minutes aside to mark each day very specifically, investing our time to focus on how that emotion or trait contributes and balances our life. And we remember our history. These were the days long ago that our ancestors slept in the desert as slaves escaping Egypt. We were not quite free from that bondage to Pharoah. We became truly free after accepting Torah and its commandments. The blessing and readings we read and speak each day also command us to remember our emergence as a people.
We remember our passing from slavery to freedom when we freely accepted the obligation to serve God, and to care for our brothers and sisters.
If you read the Bible, Christian or Jewish, you already know how those stories go. But if you think about it, the people of those historic times did not know just how that trip from Egypt to Sinai would was going to end. In their time, the end of their story was unknown.
Just like ours is, today.
For them, like us, each day was a new challenge with mysterious fears and unknown potential. It’s our approach and faith that guide us to the shining potential of God’s love and acceptance. This is acceptance and love we can share with the person next to us. Do we look to find a common space with each person we encounter each day, even if they don’t look like us? Do we look for opportunities to provide safety to others, acceptance and compassion to a stranger? Can we treat them as we would want to be treated? Without judgment?
As we move in these uncertain times, with politicized accusations coming from what feels like all sides, it's not all that much different from the lives lived in the times of Torah is it? The ending of each day was unknown at its beginning. We each make our own choices each day. What guides us? Faith or fear? We have the freedom to decide.
Can we still take time each day to listen to the naked voice of God, to find our mission?
People of faith find strength and guidance from God. We must pause, and remember the faith it took to follow Moses out of Egypt, and to step forward into the Reed Sea with Egyptians bearing down behind us, with chariots and spears. The faith that sustained our ancestors ripples forward within us still today.
Can you take a moment to remember God’s blessings and Commandments, and from those, echo that strength, peace, humility and love with the people around you?
Yakutis is a lay leader at Temple Solel in Fort Mill: firstname.lastname@example.org.