Spring 2021 has special significance! We are radically looking forward to a new beginning and back to a normal way of life even if it is a ‘new normal’. We are all craving some form of normalcy.
For me, a nagging statement/question plays over and over in my mind, ‘Where do We go from Here’, as a country, as a nation, as a world, as a race, as a community, as a neighbor and as families.
To begin answering this question or addressing this statement first quietly within myself and then loudly to the outside I share with you the mythical story of The Rabbi’s Gift…
In a deep woods surrounding a monastery there was a little hut that a rabbi from a nearby town occasionally used for a hermitage. Through their many years of prayer and contemplation some old monks had become a bit psychic, so they could always sense when the rabbi was in his hermitage. “The rabbi is in the woods, the rabbi is in the woods again, “they would whisper to each other. As he agonized over the imminent death of his order, it occurred to the abbot at one such time to visit the hermitage and ask the rabbi if by some possible chance he could offer any advice that might save the monastery.
The rabbi welcomed the abbot at his hut. But when the abbot explained the purpose of his visit, the rabbi could only commiserate with him. “I know how it is,” he exclaimed. “The spirit has gone out of the people. It is the same in my town. Almost no one comes to the synagogue anymore.” So the old abbot and the rabbi wept together. Then they read parts of the Torah and quietly spoke of deep things. The time came when the abbot had to leave. They embraced each other. “It has been a wonderful thing that we should meet after all these years,” the abbot said, “but I have stilled failed in my purpose for coming here. Is there nothing you can tell me, no piece of advice you can give me that would help me save my dying order?”
“No, I am sorry,” the rabbi responded. “I have no advice to give. The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you.”
When the abbot returned to the monastery his fellow monks gathered around him to ask, “Well, what did the rabbi say?”
“He couldn’t help,” the abbot answered. “We just wept and read the Torah together. The only thing he did say, just as I was leaving…it was something cryptic…was that the Messiah is one of us. I don’t know what he meant.”
In the days, weeks, and months that followed, the old monks pondered this and wondered whether there was any possible significance to the rabbi’s words. The Messiah is one of us? Could he possibly have meant one of us monks here at the monastery? If that’s the case, which one? Do you suppose he meant the abbot? Yes, if he meant anyone, he probably meant Father Abbot. He has been our leader for more than a generation. On the other hand, he might have meant Brother Thomas. Certainly Brother Thomas is a holy man. Everyone knows that Thomas is a man of light. Certainly he could not have meant Brother Elred! Elred gets crotchety at times. But come to think of it, even though he is a thorn in people’s sides, when you look back on it, Elred is virtually always right. Often very right. Maybe, the rabbi did mean Brother Elred. But surely not Brother Phillip. Phillip is so passive, a real nobody. But then, almost mysteriously, he has a gift for somehow always being there when you need him. He just magically appears by your side. Maybe Phillip is the Messiah. Of course the rabbi didn’t mean me. He couldn’t possibly have meant me. I’m just an ordinary person. Yet supposing he did? Suppose I am the Messiah? Oh God not me. I could not be that much for You, could I?
As they contemplated in this manner, the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect on the off chance that one among them might be the Messiah. And on the off, off chance that each monk himself might be the Messiah, they began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect.
Because the forest in which the monastery was situated was beautiful, people still occasionally came to visit the monastery to picnic on its tiny lawn, to wander along some of its paths, even now and then to go into the dilapidated chapel to meditate. As they did so, without being conscious of it, they sensed an aura of incredible respect that now surrounded the five old monks and seemed to radiate out from them permeating the atmosphere of the monastery. There was something strangely attractive, even compelling, about it. Hardly knowing why, they began to come back to the monastery more frequently to picnic, to play and to pray. They now began to bring their friends to show and share this special place. And their friends brought their friends.
Then it happened that some of the younger men who came to visit the monastery started to talk more and more with the old monks. After a while one asked if he could join them. Then another. And another. So, within a few years the monastery had once again become a thriving order and, thanks to ‘The Rabbi’s Gift’, a vibrant center of light and spirituality in the region.
One of my biggest take-away from this story is Alice Walker’s, ‘We are the ones We have been Waiting For’.
We are all radically trying to understand and make sense of the pass year, how did we arrive here?
Let us face it, many have continued to prosper but way too many have suffered, many have simply slowed down to enjoy time with family but way too many have had their lives turned upside down right in front of them and some have not been allowed to BREATHE. Too many have died!
Big Lesson: We ALL need each other to survive, to thrive, to love, to understand, to listen, to forgive, to be in community. The time is now for us to teach, show and demonstrate that WE ALL MATTER.
We have all been waiting for each other to show up for each other. We have been waiting to really be seen and heard. We have all be waiting for each other to validate each other and show the real meaning of BELONGING and INCLUSION.
We have been given a gift and a rare opportunity to build real communities within our families, homes, neighborhoods, institutions, cities and towns.
That’s ‘Where We Go from Here’.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti