In the spring of 2004 I had the privilege of meeting Rabbi Zalman Schacter in Vancouver at an extraordinary multi-faith/no faith retreat. It even included the Dalai Lama along with a number of other wise people from around the world.
At lunch time on day two I was preparing to sit down, when a stranger asked me this question. “What faith are you?”
I said, “Oh, I am multi-faith. I learn from the wisdom of all the great teachers.”
My interrogator was quite insistent that I pick, so, at that moment I flung my arms wide and announced, ” if I had to choose today, I would be Jewish, because the Rabbi’s are so hilarious.”
With the flinging of my arms I hit someone standing behind me who turned out to be one of those hilarious Rabbi’s. I quickly apologized, with some embarrassment, but he exclaimed, with a generous smile, “this is the best compliment I have received as a Rabbi.”
Of course, with that statement, my choice was vindicated and we all laughed.
I truly delighted in the wisdom stories of the Rabbi’s that day, which were delivered with so much humour and humanity.
They often seemed to confirm my own point of view that not everything necessarily happens for a reason. Rather, a realistic view is that whatever happens becomes part of what forms us. Yet, there is a recognition that depending on how we view things, we can increase or decrease our suffering.
Rabbi Schacter wrote a blessing that resonates with my experience, so I pass it on to you.
I dedicate this post to all of you who are working with “what is,” doing the very best that you can with challenging situations. You have my highest admiration.
“Whether the golden sun warms you to the core or the bitter cold wind stings your face, it is all a blessing. Whether you are surrounded by pleasure or immersed in toil and strife, every moment is a thing that carries boundless beauty and possibility.
Take each moment as it comes to you and give your best to it. Resenting the pain will only make it more painful, and hoarding the pleasure will only prevent you from experiencing its joy.
Give your attention and your energy to where you are. For when you truly appreciate the value of where you are and what you have, it opens you up to a world of possibilities.
Move beyond your own arbitrary judgments, and things that were once difficult and intolerable can become far easier to bear. Consider that much of what makes something difficult is the way you think and feel about it.
Rather than seeing yourself as enduring something unpleasant, see yourself as contributing your very best to a challenging and energizing situation. Rather than waiting for something better to come along, take the initiative and find a way to make something better actually happen.
Every moment is a truly unique and valuable blessing when you see it as such.”
Rabbi Zalman Schacter
Note 1:) Rabbi Schacter, was the author of many books, a founder of the Jewish Renewal movement, an innovator in ecumenical dialogue and a revered as well as a controversial figure in the overlapping circles of his life.
Note 2:) Now that tulip festival is over, the tulips are at their best. Lucky runners and walkers, as this is race weekend coming up and they will all get to pass by the breathtaking display along the canal.
Note 3:) My direct experience, for my entire life, is that helping hands have always shown up when needed. As always, I deeply appreciate your kind words and thoughtful emails and comments. Warm greetings, Trudy