Archive for February, 2020

Trying to Be a Hopeaholic

This past Shabbat, I was having a conversation with one of our congregants, Lillian Spier. Lillian just turned one-hundred years old. I half-jokingly asked her what the secret was to her longevity. I expected her to talk about being active, making healthy eating choices – something like that. But instead she said, “I’m a hope-a-holic.” To her, the secret of her long life was all about attitude, all about the way that she chooses to see the world.

It’s funny how sometimes things come together all at once. The next day, I was listening to a podcast and the speaker was talking about how important it is to take “delight” in the world. This too, is about how we choose to perceive events around us. Yet, it was also a challenging week last week, and the state of the world seems quite bleak. How can we be hopeaholics at a time like this? How can we take delight in such a world?

This week’s Torah portion, parshat B’shallach, contains one of the most famous miracles in the Torah. The children of Israel have finally escaped Egyptian slavery and encounter before them a body of water. Moses raises his rod over the waters and they part. The people cross to freedom on dry land. Once they are safe, Miriam and the women take up their tumbrels and sing one of the oldest songs: “Mi Chamocha, ba-eilim, Adonai” – “Who is like You G-d, among the gods that are worshipped?”

We don’t experience miracles like this anymore. In fact, most people would agree that the age of miracles has passed. But perhaps not. Maybe, in order to see the miracles today, we have to strive to be hopeaholics?

One of my favorite liturgical poems speaks to this. Rabbi Sidney Greenberg wrote in his prayerbook, Siddur Hadash:

We look for miracles in the extraordinary, while too often we remain oblivious to the miracles, which abound in the ordinary moments of our lives.

Our lives are drenched in miracles. Miracles are all around us – and within us. We are each walking miracles.

When we are bruised, what miracle heals us? When we sleep, what miracle restores us? When we see beauty, what miracle elevates us? When we hear music, what miracle moves us?

When we see suffering, what miracle saddens us? When we give and receive love, what miracle warms us? When we pray, what miracle renews us?

Every springtime is a miracle; every snowflake is a miracle; every newborn is a miracle. The thoughts we think, the words we utter, the hopes we cherish – each is a miracle.

We live from miracle to miracle. That is why the Modim reminds us: be thankful for God’s miracles, which are daily with us.

On this Shabbat, in which we read the Mi Chamocha from the Torah, let us be reminded to seek the miracles, the look for the delight that will lead us to declare in wonder, “Who is like You?”