Posts by Rabbi Mara Young

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Turning (after Hurricane Sandy)

In the days leading up to Superstorm Sandy, I thought my eyes were going to turn into hypnotic spirals. Like most, I was glued to the TV, watching images of the storm heading our way, hoping it would drift out into the Atlantic at the last moment. 

But as each day passed, the storm’s spiral remained well-defined, turning counterclockwise towards the shore it would eventually devastate.

Instead of turning out to sea, it turned on us.  The first day, lighting candles and eating all the ice cream out of the freezer was fun.  The second day, less so. Unfortunately, some of our temple families are still today without power, living in the homes of friends and relatives who have taken them in from the cold.  We pray that it won’t be much longer.

Here in Westchester we’ve suffered.  It’s crippling to be without your normal routine.  It’s frustrating for your house to feel like a foreign ice-box and not the home-base it is supposed to be.  We’ve got totaled cars and damage to our homes.  It has not been easy.

And then we turn on the news and we see neighborhoods in Staten Island, New Jersey and Long Island that have been blown away. That too sends a shiver through our bodies. Entire buildings, entire lives will need to be rebuilt.

Here at Woodlands, we’re responding as quickly as we can. Soon we’ll be taking up a collection for those most affected by the destruction.  We’re also putting together a taskforce to figure out when, how, and where we can get boots on the ground to help with the clearing and rebuilding.  If you are interested in helping in this, let me or Rabbi Billy know right away.

There is something we can do right now, though. And that is to give money to the relief effort.  As a temple, we’ve set a challenge for ourselves: raise as much money in 10 days as we can.  Why 10 days?  We’re taking a note from the most famous 10 days in the Jewish calendar: the Eseret Yamei Teshuva – the 10 Days of Turning – the 10 days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.  During the 10 Days, we’re supposed to turn our souls back to God. We look to rebuild ourselves into better people.

So here we are months after the High Holy Days with another opportunity for turning and rebuilding. 

Our “10 Days of Turning” initiative started last Tuesday and will go until next Friday, November 16.  You can give online or send a check to the temple office.

Certainly we can find it in ourselves to take part in this turning.  After all, the spirit of rebuilding and turning ourselves around is in the air.

Because it’s strange fate that Election Day was on Tuesday, the same day our initiative began.  That day, the message came through loud and clear from the American people: it’s time to turn towards the future. Part of that turning will be uniting our fractured political system.  We’re not just rebuilding the economy, we’re rebuilding the way we discuss issues.  As in the case of Hurricane Sandy, the enemy is not one another.  The enemy is climate change, poverty, and limitations of civil liberties. 
Our country must make a turn towards rebuilding a better society together.

President Obama put it best in his election night speech:

“Now, we will disagree, sometimes fiercely, about how to get there. As it has for more than two centuries, progress will come in fits and starts. It's not always a straight line. It's not always a smooth path. By itself, the recognition that we have common hopes and dreams won't end all the gridlock or solve all our problems or substitute for the painstaking work of building consensus and making the difficult compromises needed to move this country forward. But that common bond is where we must begin.”

It’s where we begin with rebuilding after the storm, it’s where we begin to rebuild after a highly divisive election year.  We move forward.

There’s a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon that sums it up best.

Mild-mannered Calvin is stuck doing homework on a beautiful Sunday. When no one is watching, he dashes off to become Stupendous Man, defender of freedom! Stupendous Man heads towards the earth at an acute angle, using stupendous force to begin turning the earth in the other direction. Stupendous Man turns the planet all the way around backward. Afterwards, Calvin’s mom asks if he finished his schoolwork. Calvin marches along in his Stupendous Man costume, saying it's Saturday. He doesn't need to do it until tomorrow, thanks to Stupendous Man.

Folks, we’ve got homework to do.  We have challenges ahead of us in the wake of this storm, in the wake of the election.  Our challenge is not to turn backwards, but to turn forwards.  We need to take on the challenges, take on tomorrow. May we do so speedily and productively.  Kein Yhi Ratzon.

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