As I’ve learned over the many years of writing these Shabbat encouragements, I go with the flow about what to share with you. Following that path, I now know that it is artificial to arbitrarily stop the Coronavirus topic. We are not to forget those suffering from this pandemic, especially in third world countries literally dying due to the disruption in the food delivery chain and lack of medical resources, those still at the frontline here fighting this enemy of life. It seemed not quite the right time to end the series as these thoughts flooded my head today. We are to live in the moment making the best of it, in some ways even enjoying these present circumstances personally, or enduring the hardships, but also, we are to stay aware of our connectivity to our being part of the one world of His created beings living with the impact of COVID-19.
As Rabbi Rich has been quoting recently, “It is the best of times. It is the worst of times.” As we are able to support each other emotionally during these times, it is natural to have that inner tension in our psyches to remember the millions so much more negatively impacted by this deadly virus.
With that as a framework . . .
I ask, are you transforming?
A recent survey showed that the most common food being purchased (at least per one survey) is Ramen Noodles. I understand the many reasons this selection is fine for some. Yet it may be some of us who have more choices, especially now with more down time at home, are also reaching for convenience foods. I’m not suggesting everyone has to start doing more cooking or that doing so is necessarily life altering. We do at this time, however, have the opportunity to get closer to creation, closer to nature, closer to Him. Such experiences can be transformative.
My sister recently shared with us her enjoyment of trying to make a sourdough starter. The initial motivation may have been lack of easily available bread, or yeast, due to the coronavirus. I seem to know an amazing number of family and friends who are baking bread at this time also, perhaps for the same reasons, or perhaps for reasons not yet understood. In any event, how HaShem used my sister’s circumstances and gave her choices, is amazing. Taking just two ingredients, flour and water, is creating for her, and now for Sid and me, and for our son who is also enjoying the activity, a delightful new endeavor that is reminding us of the beauty of creation and the joy all around us in the simple things.
The literal poetry flowing from my sister’s lips as she describes what making these sourdough breads means to her – the cosmic connection with our ancestors and a visceral understanding of their lifestyles, the feeling of providing for her family as they did during a time of need, the life giving miracle happening before her very eyes as two inert ingredients create a life giving force, the unbridled feelings of joy brought forth from what was once a disappointment in finding bread or yeast, the small feeling of power over her wellbeing resting within her own hands and her willingness to venture into the unknown, the resiliency being built in her as she rises above the inevitable disappointments with different recipes, the joy in the scrumptious successes.
Her moments of happiness in this pursuit are not just about the ultimate product which looks delectable (!) but more importantly, about her willingness to make a choice to acknowledge the challenges of these days and use those to live meaningfully – to overcome hardships, try new things, hope for something better, do something that makes a difference, improve daily lives, seek meaning and connection.
Our choices to approach hardship as a challenge to find the hope is life giving. Just as the two simple ingredients, flour and water, through hard work and creativity, trial and error, perseverance and patience, are transformed into life giving sustenance, we, in our choices, have the ability to bring forth life-giving wellbeing and create hope in our lives, even during these in some ways desolate times. We can accept and be mindful of the situation we are in, and yet, through our responses use it to grow ourselves and those with whom we interact.
Have you tried at least one new thing in the last month? Are you feeling closer to creation? Are you transforming?
Sid and I don’t expect our amateur attempts at sourdough breadmaking to rise to the level of exquisite taste and art achieved by our own Cheryl Holbert who years ago committed her life to this endeavor, who not only bakes award winning bread, but also, creates some as true works of art. Yet, the seemingly limitless ways to think about bread – historically, emotionally, physically, spiritually – have also made it a very meaningful pursuit for these times, among endless other wonderful choices as well – in music, art, writing, nature walks with new eyes, more active listening in more conversations with more in our circles, conscious attitude changes seeing good, less judgment, more acts of kindness – new choices toward roads less traveled that are headed toward the light.
The expanded Dickens’ quote from the one mentioned above:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” (Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities”
As we are being pushed to connect more deeply to HaShem during these times, I encourage you to adjust your filter. Stay aware of the dark side, but do not lose hope. Each day has both. It is up to you to decide which choices help you in this journey. For Sid and me, in addition to the many other revelations, baking sourdough bread reminds us of Yeshua, whose life was not sweet, who rose from the dead, and who became the ultimate Bread of Life. We, and all of us, are blessed to partake.