For most folks things calm down during the summer months. Life slows a bit and the schedule is different. It is a good time to reflect on, if nothing else, how quickly life seems to fly by…from one season to the next, and one year to the next.
It feels as if this past activity year has had more than its share of trauma, sadness and, at times overwhelm. Summer is a good time to take stock of our lives. I have noticed and felt the truism that the older one gets the faster time seems to fly. It occurred to me recently that a positive way to view that (for those that wish life would slow down a bit) is that with life going so quickly, perhaps we can find ourselves aging slower…that we, personally don’t keep up with the calendar. That could give substance to the sense many have that people blessed with reasonably good health seem younger than their actual years, that so many of you seem (and appear to be) at least 10 years younger than your age.
However life is going for you, Shabbat, on a weekly basis is the day to reflect on the week that was, and to take time to notice
overlooked blessings and to appreciate how you negotiated difficult and challenging points in the week. Shabbat is the day to remind you to think in terms of gratitude for what is going okay in your life and people that make your life better. Summer as a season can serve the same purpose for those of you for whom the pace is indeed slower.
For rabbis, summer is the quiet before the “storm” of reentry into the more hectic pace of the year introduced by the Days of Awe. I am more acutely aware of that this summer given how early arriving Rosh Hashanah is (September 4th!).
In preparing for the Days of Awe, I am holding onto a book I have been telling people about that is making my life as a rabbi, positing God’s Presence in our daily doings and the larger world, a lot easier. I assume that you assume that it goes
with the territory that a rabbi and other clergy people are in the “business” of telling you of the dynamics of God’s existence and Presence in this world. You might expect it of me and therefore be tempted to take my words and teachings in that regard with a grain of salt. It is my “job” to keep you aware of the centrality of God in Judaism… especially Judaism, a story of continuity that defies logic and likelihood of possibility, given the myriad of great nations and powers through the ages that attempted to remove us from existence; ironically most, if not all of these historic powers are the ones that disappeared.
However, you would not expect that a man of science and a card-carrying skeptic would be the one to do the work for me, to “prove” to you God’s Existence and Presence. For many months a paperback has been number 1 or 2 on the national and Bay Area best seller list; I imagine it will continue to hold that position for quite some time (great news for me and other clergy “marketing” God to their congregations!). I have been amazed that in every situation I have mentioned the book hardly anyone has read it. It is great reading for contributing to your reflection this summer on life and your particular journey. Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander is the most unlikely story you may ever read. It is the tale of a prominent Boston neurosurgeon that suddenly fell ill and was taken to his own hospital where his colleagues and co-workers saw that, however it happened, his brain was gone… completely.
It was only a matter of time before the family would have to accept that the best prognosis he would face would be to live and breathe but with no ability to live as a human would want. On day 7, just as they were looking to convince the family to pull the
plug, he awakened, and over a 2 year period, miraculously regained all function. His colleagues could not explain how this was possible, yet that is not the story. The story is about what happened while his brain was 100% gone. He experienced life in a “heavenly” mode, yielding truths instantly that were many times more vivid and comprehendible than dreams and, as Doctor Alexander indicated, would take a lifetime or more for a human using his/her brain to figure out. With the brain 100% gone, it was “impossible” for him to comprehend/experience anything.
I won’t tell you more, but suffice it to say the title Proof of Heaven refers to Heaven as we do Jewishly, not as a “place” in a physical sense but a “reality” that is pure God with insights that make life in this world much more meaningful
and significant. As a Christian who at best humored his family when they wanted him to join them at church on
occasional Sundays, he presents an understanding of life and God’s Presence that is perfectly aligned with Jewish teaching and understanding of the meaning of Life and how God works with us (when we allow it) in connecting this world to Life Everlasting.
This is a powerful and potent read for Agnostics and particularly card-carrying Atheists. I am tempted to teach it in the fall as yet another way of accessing Judaism and its values for practical living. The book is an easy read (150 pages) and so far whoever has listened to my urging that they read it has thanked me.
Have a wonderful restful summer. I pray it goes as slowly as you like as you savor life and all its blessings, that we be energized to start the fall together with dreams of making 5774/2014 a year of blessing and wellbeing for all of us and our world.