Should We Do Any Less?

A message from Rabbi David J. Gelfand

Every year around Yom Kippur and around Yom HaShoah I get multiple questions about “Where Was/Is God?” and in these unprecedented times, it’s an almost daily occurrence. Jewish custom for almost 70 years prescribes Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, five days after Passover, in April. It was in April that the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto rose up and faced guns and tanks with empty hands.

As spring unfolds and we feel the dramatic turn from the cold darkness of winter, we begin to feel the warm colors of springtime. We live with April showers and awe-inspiring rainbows. But the colors of the rainbow once were stolen and used for evil, pinned to hearts of good people: yellow for Jews, red for Communists, brown for Gypsies, pink for Gays

In this season, we want to dance among the new flowers blooming. We cannot see a butterfly in flight without recalling the poem of a twelve-year-old inmate of Theresienstadt who said of her imprisonment that she “never saw another butterfly.”

A story teaches us well: One night, I dreamed I was walking along the beach with God. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky. In each scene, I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes, there were two sets of footprints; other times there were only one.

This bothered me because I noted that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering anguish, sorrow or defeat, alone and lonely, I could only see one set of footprints, so I said to God, “You promised me, God, that if I followed You, You would walk with me always. But I’ve noticed that during the most trying times of my life, there’s only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I’ve needed you most, have You not been there for me?”

God replied, “The times when you have only seen one set of footprints…is when I have carried you.”

In these challenging days, let’s remember to be grateful to all who are doing godly things – doctors and healthcare workers all, the first responders and so many others who put themselves in possible harm’s way, to make sure that we continue our journey. Thank God.

Our liturgy teaches us, Jewish martyrs were “not punished for any individual guilt, but indiscriminately, men and women, the aged and the young, the learned and the simple… Yet we will not forget them… We take them into our hearts and give them a place beside the treasured memories.” And so it is of the victims of the Coronavirus, a very different kind of random killer. And thus the question of so many: “Oh God, Where Are You?”

God bless our memories. And God bless us with the courage to yet see and appreciate the blossoms and the butterflies in all their color, especially this spring. And inspired by those who do godly things, let us love where there is hate, hope where there is despair, and bring reason. beauty and brightness into this springtime. Let us find ways to say and do godly things. After all, after a time of great darkness, long, long ago God arches his wondrous rainbow over Noah’s ark in the springtime of human history. If God could believe in rainbows, should we do any less?

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