The current economy has many people feeling as if they are constantly falling into an endless financial hole, the unknown territory of joblessness, the fear-filled arena of homelessness, or simply a world of many unknowns and thus, much uncertainty. In our current times, few of us are free of some effects-real or perceived-of the recession, but we can find a way to look at our current circumstances in a way that offers us a different perspective on the situation-a way to help ourselves feel a bit more stable and balanced.
I’d like to call your attention to a teaching offered to me by Rabbi Eddie Sukol of The Shul in Ohio. He had the privilege of studying with Rabbi and Dr. Elliot Ginsburg, associate professor of Jewish Thought at the University of Michigan, at a conference of Jewish renewal rabbis. (I have also studied with Prof. Ginsburg, I am happy to say.) During Rabbi Sukol’s class, Prof. Ginsburg shared an insight about walking that I think we might find useful today if we can remember it every day. Indeed, if we remember it each time we take a step forward throughout our day it is bound to help us overcome our fear and uncertainty.
Prof. Ginsburg explains that walking is really the act of falling and catching ourselves, falling and catching ourselves, over and over again. Think about that as you walk. Consider how you never (or rarely) allow yourself to fall. You take a step and lean forward, defying gravity by righting yourself rather then continuing your downward motion. The force of gravity pulls you downward, but you manage with each step to fight against it and straighten up-only to go through the same motion again.
Rabbi Sukol says the manner in which we move, or ambulate, provides us with “a metaphor for the ebb and flow of our life. We step forward, we stumble, we catch and right ourselves, and we keep moving.”
This may ring all the more true for many of us today. Some days we may feel ourselves stumbling and falling-at least emotionally-more than usual…maybe in conjunction with the movement of the stock market or with the fluctuation of funds in our bank account or with the state of job security where we work. We may try different things to help ourselves through these difficult times only to find that we flounder and fall and must pick ourselves up, or maybe we can catch ourselves just prior to hitting the ground.
However, if we remember that we move through life always falling and catching ourselves, heading downward but righting ourselves, defying the forces of nature, and moving forward again, we will realize that we can keep moving forward. We will know that we are able to handle these tough and uncertain times. We need only keep on walking, keep on moving forward one step at a time.
That said…I’m posting this on a Friday, so I’d also like to suggest that we stop walking, stop moving, and simply stand still for a while. In the process of doing so, we allow ourselves to regain our balance. That, too, can provide an essential tool for feeling stable, for it allows us to connect with our inner navigation system-our soul-and to a highter one as well-God.
For more on this subject, watch this video. America’s #1 rabbi, Rabbi David Wolpe, speaks about Shabat on the Jewish TV Network.
(Note: I would like to thank Rabbi Sukol (and Prof. Ginsburg) for his teaching, originally related to Parshat Shemot.)