Sign In Forgot Password

When You're not in a Foxhole

10/10/2019 12:48:46 PM


They say there are no atheists in foxholes, and having never been in one, I can only presume it is true. But I have been chased by an angry swarm of bees, and I can confirm that some prayers for divine protection did escape my lips. I can also confirm that those prayers gave me and those around me some real courage to circumnavigate the venomous swarm. The idea that a prayer couldn’t hurt when you are in danger and afraid seems well grounded. Because you have more to gain from a prayer being answered than what you might lose from a prayer that was in vain. The trick, however, is praying when you are not in the foxhole or being chased by bees.

In Parshat Ha’azinu, the second to last Parsha in the Torah, Moses offers a poetic song beseeching the Israelites to be faithful to God. Knowing his days are limited, Moses hopes that he can make his argument so successfully that the Israelites will continue living righteous lives when he is no longer around. And in this song, Moses describes how it was God who protected and nurtured the Israelites when they needed it most. How God found them in an “empty howling waste” and how God protected them like an eagle with wings spread over her young. How God produced honey and oil from rocks to feed them, and provided for them the best milk, wheat, and wine. Only for the Israelites to grow coarse and to kick and to forsake the God who made and protected them. (Deuteronomy 32: 10-18). How easy it is to have faith in God when we are in a foxhole and need Him. How difficult it is to appreciate God when we are in our comfy pajamas, eating ice-cream while watching reruns of our favorite shows.

While the metaphor of an imminent God has the power to give us needed strength during difficult times, not everyone believes in such a personal divine power. However, embedded in such a statement of faith is a recognition that there are things in this world that are outside of our control. When we are in danger, these forces outside of our control are immediately evident. But when we are sitting fulfilled at home, it is harder to appreciate how quickly things can be upended. Or when you are on a peaceful hike, it is hard to conceive that at any moment, a swarm of bees might descend upon you. Yet if we can appreciate the blessings in our lives before the other shoe drops, perhaps we can then take Moses’s words to heart and make the most of our time with the people we love, doing the things we enjoy. We can maximize our living, be mindful of the present, and be more intentional with our actions.

Sat, May 25 2024 17 Iyyar 5784