My favorite verses of the year are the start of the Ashrei that follows the Kinot of Tisha B’Av morning. We’re sitting on the floor, hungry, cranky, and having just recited graphic and horrible human tragedies. We’re in emotional and physical pain. And we assert “Fortunate are those who dwell in Your house, they will yet praise You. Fortunate are those for whom The Eternal is their God; fortunate are those for whom things are like this.”
It’s one of the few prayers for which my ADD brain can focus, and recite with concentration and clarity.
Yes, we’ve suffered double punishment for all of our sins. And we still live in fear of those punishments returning. Christians may have their fire and brimstone speeches about an afterlife in hell. We have our fire and brimstone collective memories about life on earth.
And yet, here we are. Some lost their faith in the Holocaust, or at other stops along the way, and who can blame them?
Our story matches Teddy Roosevelt’s Man in the Arena “whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
We’ve certainly known defeats. We’ve erred and come short again and again. Our face is marred by dust and sweat and blood. Because there is no effort without error and shortcoming.
But oh, have we strived valiantly, dared greatly, and spent ourselves in the most worthy of causes.
Tikkun Olam. Ethical monotheism. Pursuing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God. Loving our neighbor. Choosing life. Spreading goodness. Seeking peace.
Jewish history is our eternal quest to better understand and fulfill our mission. Which seems to have something to do with being good and making the world better, in that order. Our efforts leave us exposed to accusations of hypocrisy whenever we err. And yet we continue.
Jewish history has much darkness, error and pain. But it also has much happiness, joy, and hope. And it is filled with meaning and a sense of purpose.
Fortunate are those who dwell in Your house, they will yet praise You. Fortunate are those for whom The Eternal is their God; fortunate are those for whom things are like this.