Hurricane Sandy has passed over New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Now, the recovery.
Torah teaches us to bless (thank or praise) G-d for everything that happens — good and bad.
Saying a brachah — a blessing — is more than “words.” It’s a comprehensive attitude. Or should be.
Each blessing begins with: Baruch Ata Ha-Shem, Elokeinu Melech ha-Olam (except “Dayan Emet,” which begins only with “Baruch”).
For the good “Ha-Tov v’Ha-Meitiv” — The Good One Who Does Good.
For the “not-so-good”: “Dayan Emet” — The True Judge.
For witnessing a storm: “Sheh’ko’cho u’G’vu’ra’to Malei Olam” — Whose Strength and Might Fill the World.
Many people might have a very hard time blessing G-d today.
Although the loss of life was far less than it could have been, there were still heart-breaking stories. Even one is too many.
Although lost material things can be replaced, the trauma of the destruction of our life-setting — the home that contains our family or the memories and memorabilia of family/intimate events — can’t and shouldn’t be underestimated. Simply moving voluntarily from one location to another — even for the best of reasons — is known to be a major stressor. So, kal v’homer the stress of having everything familiar ripped away from us must be even greater.
Blessing G-d at the hardest moments — for those moments — isn’t meant to fly in the face of human misery.
If, before the crisis, we’ve cultivated the belief that everything is done by G-d for the Good, then saying a blessing at those moments can connect us with our own Divine Source, bring us a peace that can help us get through those moments with greater ease. Let’s not be fooled, though, by the apparent simplicity of the statement or principle of G-d’s Goodness. Even to become willing to accept it can take great struggle. Then, to actually accept it, especially at moments of challenge, requires a deep, sincere surrender of self-will — of self, really.
In addition to saying blessings, we can find peace by quietly reciting psalms (even randomly chosen ones).
We can also speak to G-d in informal prayer — “Hitbodedut.” We can “kvetch” a little, if it makes us feel better, but prayer is mainly for making G-d larger in our attention than the problem. G-d, and G-d’s Goodness, are no less with us at “the worst of times” than at “the best of times.”
Part of a belief in Divine Goodness further includes determining what — if any — our next action should be.
Another part is finding ways to ease others’ sufferings, to whatever extent it’s within our power to do so. Even a simple show of concern — a phone call, an email, a smile — can be invaluable. We might not be able to change the outer circumstances quickly, but we can soften others’ experience by caring. When we do, we’ll find that it softens ours, too.
BUT: What if we haven’t cultivated such a belief in Divine Goodness — or deny it altogether?
It’s still best to find a way to deal with the stress as calmly as possible — without doing “violence” to our own feelings.
Faith can bring calmness; in the absence of Faith, relaxation is useful. Many simple ways to relax can be learned rather quickly.
Helping others at these times, to whatever extent we’re able to, can also help keep us mobilized to face our own stresses. Inactivity and sadness work against us.
Choosing positive thoughts can be a facet of Faith, but can also stand on its own as a way to moderate the emotional upheaval that you might be undergoing.
The sooner we can focus more on the Present and Future — on what actions we must and can take now and afterwards — the easier it will be to dwell less on what’s been lost. But again, dealing with feelings, we shouldn’t deny ourselves the need to acknowledge the sadness we might well be feeling.
Relaxing, thinking positively, planning for ourselves and helping others can keep us from adding to the stress we’re already experiencing, and help us mobilize ourselves to do what we must do.
If we can’t accept that it’s all for an ultimate Good, we’ll still find that judging and condemning what happens to us doesn’t help at all. In the end, we simply have to “deal with it” — take the necessary actions and move on. The less criticism we add to this, the less emotional attachment we’ll have to it and the easier it will be to tolerate without resistance.
The dynamics of how we face a crisis are very similar, whether we think of ourselves as “having Faith” or not.
You can face what you must face.
G-d, Your Divine Peace is filling all those who are suffering now, easing them through it.