This is not an easy post to write. It is deep and revealing…open and brutally honest…a battle. As I sit here typing, I can tell you the tension in my back is literal and brutal. I have a piercing and seemingly unending pain, in my muscles and my nerves.
Tears flow randomly and unexpectedly. Though for anyone who has ever had nerve pain, you know that your emotions are quite literally on the surface, thus tears, anger, a short fuse and outbursts come too easily. I feel weak and broken. Lost and utterly confused.
I am asking questions and I am questioning. I am looking upwards and inwards. I continue to pray and meditate and work out, and put positive things towards the heavens and the universe. I have conversations with Hashem, pleading conversations.
But… and I hate to think this, or say this, or write this… I am hearing a lot of silence.
Why DO bad things happen to good people?
While I have yet to read the famous book When Bad Things Happen To Good People by Harold S. Kushner, I am familiar with the story of how his very own loss lead this Rabbi to question his very own faith. I have heard Rabbis discuss this book, as well, and look at alternative options. And while no one would EVER question the confusing and life-changing power of loss, there are obviously many ways of grappling with the same situation, and very different ways of handling them.
And yet, we all know it is impossible to fully put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and life, so the best we can do is offer a hug and a shoulder, and the simple expression that you are there for them and for whatever they may need.
“I am sorry for your loss.” “May their memory always be a blessing.” And that is it! No, “It’s for the better,” “G-d has a reason,” “They are in a better place.” While we may hope and pray for that to be so, we cannot say it with any certainty because we do not have that power or knowledge. Only G-d knows that. Ironic considering where this piece is going.
While I have not had anything nearly as catastrophic happen, and hopefully never will, my life is wrought with issues and challenges right now. And while many are of my own making, and a result of bad decisions and even worse planning and preparation, I am in a deep questioning period and am finding it harder and harder to give myself over to faith. I feel very lost and uneasy. I wake up with stress physicalized in my body with aches and pains and general discomfort, as well as in my head, with very real headaches, and an almost fog like feeling. It is unnerving and makes thinking and doing, and focusing and accomplishing even more of a challenge.
Trying to be creative and productive and get things done while in this haze is… daunting.
I am also witnessing my friends struggle with similar issues (unemployment… trouble finding work) and issues that make my own problems look so much smaller… Horrible issues like taking care of both ailing parents, child custody battles, the serious illness of a spouse, and major, major health concerns, etc.
When I recite the Amidah I add my friends’ names for healing, and that list is getting longer and longer. What is going on?
When my friend, who is very religious, told me that his wife was just diagnosed with a brain tumor, I could hear the fear in his voice. There was no wavering of faith for him, but the fear was very real, and it hit me hard. I held in every cry, every tear, every yell until the phone conversation was done… and then I looked up and just screamed, “Why?! WHY???!!!”
This is someone who has much more faith than I do, so the confusion took even greater hold of me. And yes, I know that one’s faith is not necessarily a safeguard from bad things happening. I understand that faith is a rock and a support system for us to DEAL WITH bad things.
It was right before the start of Tisha B’Av, and the overwhelming sadness was already pervasive. I was enveloped in this cloud… trapped like the boy in the plastic bubble…and try as I might, I could not escape. I could see the world around me, yet every time I tried to grasp its beauty, to reach out and touch it, my hand smacked into the clear shell.
Was Hashem making sure I knew what true sadness was, so that the holiday would be more meaningful? I was broken. I was physically wiped out…mentally fatigued and stressed beyond anything I have ever felt. I did not NEED a reminder! I was living with this sadness every single day. I was losing sleep and so technically I was not waking up in the morning with these issues, they were simply a continuous loop, playing like a horror movie over and over and over.
But here’s the thing…the good thing…the potential light in this haze of darkness… I could have easily stayed on that bed and fallen asleep. But I didn’t.
I got up and got dressed and drove to one of my local Chabads and went to services.
Yet, as if on cue, on my way to services I got a heartbreaking call from a dear friend, who also had such sadness in her voice. She was feeling lost and depleted, and yet the very act of my going to services gave her hope and comfort. She is the most Jewish non-Jew I have ever met, and her spirituality and faith runs deep, but I knew it was being severely tested.
And although her encouragement and lift made me feel like I was doing something important…the right thing…I could not help but feel like I was not doing enough for her, or for myself. That my faith was losing strength.
I prayed and I sat on the floor and I read for the very first time, the Eichah/Lamentations and it was brutal and specific and intense. This is part of our liturgy. Wow.
And while Rabbi Avi Rabin talked about this being the saddest day of the Jewish year, he also said that we cannot stay in the sadness. That it needs to propel us forward, move us to accomplishment and joy. It needs to teach us and bring us closer to Hashem and to the Moshiach, for many also believe that this is the day it will happen. We pray for that day.
I felt some comfort and connection. Yet in the days after Tisha B’Av, conversation after conversation I had with friends and family was devastating… Lost jobs, possible divorce, horrific custody battles…just one brutal story after another.
While this may be an odd and depressing place to stop, I want it to reflect where my spinning head is right now. Plus, I am reaching out to friends and teachers, mentors and Rabbis to hear about what I can be doing to stay on the path, when even a glimmer of light seems truly hard to see or find.
Plus, I would love to hear from you, those who have given me such amazing insight in your brilliant comments and notes and lessons. For I think this struggle is something many of deal with or have dealt with.
I will gather up what I discover, and share it next week. I am hoping and praying, fully and deeply, that what we will all find…that I will find…the faith I fear is slipping away. And the fact that I keep praying is a good sign… but it is tough out there…really tough.
So here’s to belief…and hopefully a renewed and strengthened faith. Amen.