Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah – Vayak’heil

As I stood in the basement of the Hirshhorn Museum (modern art) in Washington DC, I found myself captivated by the décor. Walls floors and ceilings were covered in words and motivational phrases. One, in particular, caught my eye. “Belief + Doubt = Sanity.”

I thought about it for a few moments. On the wall (t-shirts, postcards, and other paraphernalia) was the best definition for faith I had ever seen in print.

Faith is never inerrant; it is never perfect. In fact, if someone tells you that he/she has perfect faith, you should worry. Faith is about struggling. When Jacob wrestled with the angel (or God), he became Israel. He had wrestled with God and had won. Faith is not easy, and we get tested on a regular basis. It is not faithful to blindly accept everything. Faith requires that we participate in an internal and ongoing debate. Faith requires us to address the best of times and the worst of times with enough skepticism not to take either for granted or as an accomplished end. Faith is a partnership with a God who I believe is always present, but not always in the places in which we are looking.

There are days when we feel on top of the world and days when it is all we can do to get up off of our knees. It is only because of faith that we believe each step we take matters, each person we engage matters, each challenge makes us wiser and stronger, and each celebration makes us even more whole … and better prepared to face each successive step, engagement, challenge, and celebration.

I cannot imagine my world without my faith, nor can I imagine a world with only my faith. Through the lens that informs my vision, I cannot be faithful if I cannot celebrate someone else’s faith.

Certainly, we face obstacles in overcoming our own baggage as we expand our comfort zones to see more and be more. As with Jacob’s wrestling match, sometimes we hurt in the process of the God engagement. Perhaps, though, our scars come from our lack of understanding or appreciation, not Gods? Helen Keller said, “Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.” Living a faithful life helps one understand that even when “the brick hits your head” (Steve Jobs), know that “it is not over until it is over” (Yogi Berra).

This week’s Torah portion teaches us that Israel regularly had to build up the Tabernacle and then take it down. As we moved across the wilderness, the Tabernacle needed to be taken down and put up often. There had to be a place in each person’s head that had to worry every time it came down; would it ever go back up. Every time we meet a challenge a little piece of us has to wonder whether we will find restoration in the midst of the storm. Even with the Tabernacle (our sense of being) in pieces, we take the first steps towards the next encampment. Not giving up on God, we rebuild heart and soul, find validation, security, and peace. As Dr. King taught us, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” As Bengali scholar and artist Rabindranath Tagore said, “Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark.”

The talented Art Garfunkle sang, “It’s a fine line between the darkness and the dawn/They say in the darkest night, there’s a light beyond.”

We will hold the disassembled pieces of life in our hands. We will use those pieces to rebuild our Tabernacle. We grow from our sorrows and our joys and find ourselves better able to help others grow through theirs. We are blessed, in faith, every day. Shabbat Shalom.