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Not in the plans

07/29/2021 12:39:59 PM


It’s that time of year again, where the summer is winding down and we begin thinking about the routines that we will start in the fall to carry us through the year. From a synagogue perspective, it’s the time of year where we are finalizing the main programs for our program calendar and thinking through all the opportunities to get involved with our community. In and of itself, this is a complicated balancing act as we don’t want to program events that compete with each other, let alone with other events in the larger Atlanta community. We also consider when people are likely to be on vacation, or times of year that people tend to just be busy with other facets of their lives. Considering that we have programming for all ages and stages, it is quite a complex process. Add a pandemic into the mix and the uncertainty around the types of programs it would be wise to run, and you get an even more complicated schedule that involves plan-B’s. And while I’d want to believe that all this work will pay off, this past year has taught me the lesson that not everything goes as planned.

One of the big challenges of the pandemic for me was losing control over my agenda. After spending countless hours making plans and appointments, the pandemic put life on hold and demonstrated how there are larger forces that are beyond human control. Like the proverbial saying “man plans, and God laughs,” I am conscious that I have spent the past year repeating “We’ll see” and “Hopefully by then we can” and not really knowing what the fruits of my labor will be. In a way, however, this humbling experience is exactly where Moses recommends we ought to be in this week’s Torah portion. As parshat Eikev predicts a time when the Israelites will be in their land, drinking the vintage of their vineyards and the fruits of their crops, and living in their sturdy and comfortable houses. The portion declares that these Israelites will think in their hearts: “My own power and the might of my own hand have won this wealth for me” (Deuteronomy 8:17). Yet, Moses warns that it’s not the Israelites’ might that brought this blessing upon themselves, but rather God who brought the crops and gave them the Promised Land to live in. The reminder is that even though you might work hard, and even though you might plan, success isn’t guaranteed and there is a larger force in the world.

As we face this new wave of coronavirus in our community, and reflect on the ways we might need to alter our plans and expectations to accommodate the health and safety of others, we are starkly aware that our plans are likely going to change; or at the very least are just tentative. There is a cloud hanging over us that reminds us that not everything is in our control and that we don’t have power over all aspects of our lives. Perhaps though, this humbling of the human spirit is an opportunity to reflect on the larger powers in our universe. And as religious Jews, perhaps we can find comfort that we are part of a larger narrative, despite not always having clarity on what might come next.

Sat, May 25 2024 17 Iyyar 5784