Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D., Sun Lakes Jewish Congregation
The Scriptures are filled with anecdotes describing acts of one human being toward another to enhance our values and encourage humanities’ call for good. There are so many ways to accomplish benevolence and consideration.
Hopefully, during our journey, and particularly at this time of frustration, we will encounter individuals who personify the essence of dignified human behavior. However, as we tune into our TVs or read the newspapers, we witness time and again the disastrous attempt at divisiveness and contempt for civility.
Searching through the channels on my TV, I notice a movie being advertised: St. Vincent. It looked interesting enough, so I tuned in and was expecting something entirely different than what I witnessed. I was surprised to find that through this experience, I learned to better understand the goodness of people and how they are overlooked at times or taken for granted.
We find a grumpy old man, dissatisfied with life, unable to cope with everyday living, and resentful of people in general. Perhaps this is more relevant today as we continue to learn of more deaths and more illnesses. And it is also interesting at this time because, in my experience, it could be depicting any one of us. Then magically we come across someone who lights up our lives, brings meaning to our journey, and leads us into a new understanding that there is goodness in this world. We get bogged down frequently, only concentrating on the ugly side of life.
This made me think of the value of goodness. Concentrating on the people who make a difference in our lives emphasizes the concept that deeds of kindness are equal to all the commandments. We cannot exist without connection to each other. If we lived in a vacuum, our lives would be meaningless.
We also read in Scripture about blessings and curses we receive as we travel life’s road. There is even mention of the sins of the past generations carrying forward to the next. What exactly does this mean?
Is our future condemned because of the past? Is there no way to remove the sigma of what was, so that our lives continue to have meaning without the fear of retribution? The Sages of ancient times were perplexed by the notion that no matter what we do, we cannot escape what was, and our future is influenced by these indiscretions.
In the final analysis, it was determined that God does not care about what our ancestors did, but rather what we do at this time. Have we learned from the past? Are we doomed to repeat it because we ignore the message? Scripture is not teaching us that the sins of the past will carry forward, but rather that if we do not change our ways, in some respects, we are destined to repeat the bad and thereby condemn ourselves to a life of pain and misery.
Perhaps that is what we are witnessing today. We know the consequences of our actions, and still we find ourselves ignoring the message. We confuse liberty and freedom when we disregard our neighbor’s feelings and needs. We bring terrible nightmares to the forefront when we confuse independence with security. Most of all, we jeopardize our future when we confuse reality with fantasy. This is what Scripture is teaching us as it reaches out from the past into what is supposed to be our future.
Now, more than ever, we need to epitomize the virtues of our capabilities. Our lives surely depend upon our acceptance of goodness, and mercy, and tolerance.
These thoughts and more, came to mind as I watched the movie. However, perhaps the most important message relates to the ultimate accomplishment of redemption, renewal, and salvation. Joining together we can, and will, overcome the difficulties we face.