Posted on January 1, 2021
Jan/Feb bulletin 2021
Is it because I have at least 4 crumbled face masks in my purse at any given time? Maybe it’s the multiple bottles of hand sanitizer that are strewn on my desk and rolling around in my car. Perhaps, it’s because I can’t go to the movie theater or restaurants. Or is it the lack of socialization with friends, family, and congregants? It’s likely all the above because I got the Covid blues. I’m sure you do, too. There is so much hardship, illness, anxiety and worry to fill an ocean. And even with a vaccine just starting to be accessible, we are still deep in the depths. Despair, frustration, and agitation inflict all of us, at some point or another, as we strive to get through the days, weeks, and months.
Rabbi Nahman of Bratzlav, a late 18th century Hassidic rabbi, offers some perspective on times of darkness and uncertainty. He writes in Likutei Moharan about the thick cloud at Sinai where revelation was to occur. The Israelites saw this threatening cloud and backed away from it. When times are hard, when we are fearful, there is an instinct to withdraw and step back. However Bratzlav says, “The hindrance is like a thick cloud, for a thick cloud is dark and a hindrance is dark.” What is a hindrance? For Bratzlav, it is anything that obscures God’s presence. For us, hindrances can be letdowns, moments of doubt, obstacles, challenges, and hardship. We all experience great disappointments and lapses of hope. But what do we do when we find ourselves surrounded by darkness?
Bratzlav teaches that “God actually hides the divine self in the hindrance.” That is, in the hardest of times, in the darkness night in Egypt, God is there. Bratzlav says that Moses understood this and stepped into the cloud. As he walked through it, he experiences the hidden God.
It’s an intriguing thought. Many of us associate God when good things happen such as the birth of a child, a majestic mountain, recovery, or the beautiful ocean. Bratzlav, however, says that God can be found especially in the thick clouds of doubt, uncertainty, and fear. In other words, when there is sorrow and pain, God is in the darkness and we shouldn’t step back from it, rather we need to traverse through it.
So one has to ask oneself, “Where is God in this pandemic?” We can say in the tireless work of our health care workers, the incredible scientists who have created multiple vaccines, and all the essential workers who keep the grocery stores stocked and our streets safe. But we can experience God also in those precious moments of connection when we talk with a loved one, relate to a friend on a screen, and experience a bit of goodness from another. There are many who are using this time of darkness, to elevate their humanity by doing what they can, to help others and raise up friends who succumb to the Covid blues. In essence, there is godliness even in hard times. There is light in darkness and opportunity in adversity. May our hope and perseverance give us some illumination as we traverse the obscure months ahead. May we know that God is with us even in darkness and that we are never alone. And perhaps together, we can lessen the Covid blues knowing that there are better times to come.