Friday, May 25, 2007

Bad Things

In memory of Natan Dovid ben Hershel.

The question WHY DO BAD THINGS HAPPEN? has sold a lot of books.

It has been asked by every generation from the beginning of history.

Most people shrug: “There is no answer.”

Try asking this question at your table, and then share this story about my friend Nate:

Nate started to turn his life around about six or seven months ago. At age 55, after so many years in the fast-lane, he had hit rock-bottom. If you heard the story of his life, his childhood and so on, you would not be surprised. But last fall he decided: now is the time. For six months he was on an upward path, working on himself and his relationships every day. He mended his relationship with his wife and teenage daughters. He rejuvenated his relationship to his Judaism. He had begun to internalize the Jewish perspective that we are spiritual beings having a human experience and not the other way around.

When I last saw him a few weeks ago, I asked him, “So Nate, what are you going to do with yourself now? Are you looking for work?”

“No, I’m not looking for a job. I want to volunteer. I would like to find a charitable organization that could use me. Do you know of an organization that could use my help?” he asked hopefully.

“I can think of a few, Nate – I’ll make you a list.” He seemed grateful.

Nate was also studying for the first time in his life. He attended a seminar about the history of the Torah and was so inspired he decided to try keeping kosher. He also had discovered the inner peace that only a day of “Shabbos” can give you. A friend introduced him to a local Hasidic synagogue where they sing and dance joyously Friday night.

Last Friday night, he met some of the senior members of the shul and was really feeling like he belonged. Walking home with his friend in the peaceful harmony of twilight, when all forces of the cosmos seemed in balance, Nate was run down by a car without its lights on. We don’t yet know the speed of the car, but the collision hurled him forty feet and there were no skid marks. He survived until Saturday night, and I did not hear about it until Sunday night at 2:30 am when I returned from New York.

Not just his family and friends, but the whole world is bereft of a man who had much more to give.

How do you process this? Is it enough to say, there is no answer...?

Here is a cute film, which I don’t necessarily agree with, but thought-provoking:

If you happen to be in the San Francisco area on Tuesday, June 12 and would like to share your wisdom with other thoughtful people and hear a Jewish answer that you’ve never heard before, please join me in Mill Valley (send an email for the details).

May the memory of the righteous be for a blessing. Please send an “aliya” to Nate’s neshoma by doing one act of “Shabbos” tonight in his memory.

Shabbat Shalom.

Upcoming speaking schedule:

June 4-8 Guest Blogger
June 12 – Mill Valley: “Why Do Bad Things Really Happen?” (Private home)
June 13 – San Francisco: “Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism: Hidden Connections” (Adath Israel)
June 15-16 – San Francisco: Shabbat Scholar-in-Residence (Adath Israel)
June 24-26 – Philadelphia (Etz Chaim)

(For details, send an email)

Yiddish of the week:
Shabbos — Cessation; stopping; day of stopping; weekly sabbatical experience
"Gut Shabbos" — "Enjoy your weekly sabbatical experience"
Neshoma — Soul

Yiddish review - how many do you know?
anee — poor person
koptsen — panhandler
ballaboss — homeowner; layman
nu — various meanings (see archives)
mishpocha — family
mameh — mother
tateh — father
mazal – (MAH-z’l) luck or fortune, as in, “It was good mazal that....”
beshert – (b’shairt) - meant to be, as in “It was beshert that...”
mine eltern – my parents
mine lair-er – my teacher
hamantashen – Haman-pockets
zeigezunt – all the best (said upon parting)
kesher - connection
Ikh volt veln a kave, zayt azoy gut. - I'd like a coffee, please.
...kave mit shmant. – ...a coffee with cream.
...kave mit milkh. – ...a coffee with milk.
...kave mit tsuker. - ...a coffee with sugar.
Di Fir Kashes - The Four Questions
Oy vey! - Good grief!
mensch — a decent person
rachmanos — mercy
neshoma (neh-SHOH-ma) — soul
minig — custom, as in, "Why do you do that?" "It's my minig!"
Gavaltig — wonderful
Oy gavalt — how wonderful (sarcastic)
Azoy gait es! — That’s how it goes!

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