Oasis Songs: Musings from Rav D
Friday, December 24, 2021 / 20 Tevet 5782
Summary: This week’s Oasis explores ideas about new beginnings.
Reading Time: Three minutes
Some people love new beginnings. If they see a door open even a crack, they push quickly through, so excited and certain that something wonderful waits on the other side. Perhaps there’s a party happening, perhaps all of life is a party to which they have been invited.
Other people erect barricades in front of the same door in the vain belief that if they only pile enough furniture in front of it, nothing bad will get through to disrupt their lives. What they have is worth protecting from happenstance. They know that it’s best to take out lots of insurance on life because things go wrong.
There are those who really want to push through to the other side like those first people, but their anxiety weighs on them, pulling them back. Of course, there are those who find the present moment so unsatisfying or painful that they have little choice but to plunge forward.
Where do you find yourself as 2022 rapidly approaches? Who are you in this moment? What are your hopes and fears? What are you willing to work toward? Are there things you really should do but are avoiding? Are you facing death, birth, or rebirth? What is your opportunity?
If the universe were not full of new beginnings, humans would have to invent them, as we do with all of our calendars, holy or profane, secular or religious. Simultaneously, the world is full of stories in which nothing ever happens. At the bottom of the hill, Sisyphus doesn’t view the large stone he is condemned to roll up that hill as his new chance. He is certain that it will roll down, and that his life is absurd. Nietzsche called this ancient concept eternal recurrence. As we brace for the Omicron variant, we might all find ourselves subscribing to this perennial belief. Does it ever end? A new movie, Songbird, which I have not seen, operates from this assumption as it imagines a world reeling with Covid-23. Oy, no thank you!
The linkage between the secular calendar and the Torah parshah is rather serendipitous this week, for we are starting a new book in the Torah with the beginning of the Exodus story. Knowing the story as we do, we could be forgiven for pessimism. Exodus, after all, is largely not about exodus. It is about slavery and oppression, trauma, and powerlessness. It represents a downward spiral in which all of Joseph’s accomplishments on behalf of his family peter out and lead to our loss of freedom. Seen from this factually correct perspective, why would anyone want to open the door?
Yet we are also privileged to know that even trauma has an end. We know that the descent into slavery is the necessary precondition to our liberation and to receiving our national destiny as a people connected to God, Torah, and tikkun. There is a party on the other side. It’s just sometimes there’s a lot of preparation that needs to occur first.
As we enter a new secular year, I am choosing to see this as a remarkable turning point. I don’t know whether it is or isn’t—only God holds those keys—yet if our attitudes and habits have a hand in shaping our destinies, best to do our part! May this be a year of well-being, contentment, movement, and opportunity for us all. May we each do our part in making it so, and may kindness and love spill out everywhere.
Shabbat Table Talk
Please consider spending some time over Shabbat discussing some of the questions contained here and sharing your hopes for the new year.
If you’d like to continue this discussion, follow this link to CNS’s Facebook page to share your own perspectives on the topics raised in this week’s Oasis Songs. Comments will be moderated as necessary.