There is an old saying that the most important thing in life is not the destination, but the journey. I believe that is only partly true. There is no destination. All of life is the journey. There may be pauses and stops along the way, but they are never permanent.
So much suffering in our lives comes from the belief that everything will work out exactly the way we want it to. Unfortunately, this causes us to miss so many other wonderful things and opportunities.
I think it is fascinating that the Torah itself tries to send us this message through its very structure. In most books there is a beginning, a middle and an end. We are usually disappointed and angry if the ending does not go the way we want or envisioned. Could you imagine what the fans of Harry Potter would have said if Valdemort just went home safely at the end of the series? It would not have been pretty.
The Torah, the Five Books of Moses, though, does not have a real end. God assures our ancestors that they would live in the promised land. That seems to be the entire point of liberating the Hebrews from Egypt.
At the end of the Torah, though, the people are still waiting to enter into the land. It would almost have made more sense for there to be a sixth book of the Torah. It should have included the Book of Joshua which includes the conquest of the land.
Even though the Torah does not end the way we would have expected, we still celebrate the completion of reading it every year on Simchat Torah. The Torah is teaching us that it is possible to live a meaningful life even when things do not go the way we thought or the way we wanted.
This is particularly important to remember as we begin the Jewish New Year. We think that this will be the year when everything finally comes together in the way that we have dreamed. We will lose the weight or gain it. We will get the recognition from friends, family and work in the way we know we deserve.
I certainly hope for everyone that things that have been difficult will become easier and less painful, but I can promise you it will not be perfect. Change is inevitable and unstoppable.
Change does not have to cause suffering. Change can be a time for growth and an opportunity to increase our compassion and kindness to others, especially since we know that everyone is faced with challenges.
The most important thing we can do with our lives is help others with their journeys. We can teach our loved ones courage and strength when things do not work out as planned. We can teach gratitude when they do, coupled with the recognition that these are not forever either, but part of our lifelong journey.
I wish us joy in everything we do, in where we think we are going, but mostly, joy in everywhere we are.
One Reply to “Last Shabbat’s Sermon, which might be helpful for the New Year”
Thank you, Rabbi.
I enjoyed hearing it yesterday and enjoyed reading it just now.
Shana Tovah to you and yours.