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Faith & Inspiration

Uncertain Vision


A man was lost in the forest. Finally, he met another man and exclaimed with relief: “I have been wandering for days. Now please tell me how to get out of the shadow of these trees.” The second man, with a shining face, explained: “I, too, am lost. Like you, I have found paths which do not lead out of the forest. Perhaps we can join our knowledge together and find our way to light.”

In our uncertain world, I hold an absolute certainty about Judaism’s vision of the world as it should be:

Not only will Arab nations and Israel coexist in peace
     diversity throughout the world will not be a source of fear.
Not only will weapons of wars in the world remain silent
     parents will not worry about shootings in schools.
Not only will people know how to address cancer and dementia
     the diseases will cease to exist.
Not only will we solve the issues of distress and despair
     we will provide avenues of opportunity and security for all.
Not only will we turn away fingers of derision and blame
     we will not be afraid of being judged for who we are
Not only will we achieve the cooperative search for answers
     we will not fear the strength of the question.
I am not so certain, however, as to how we will even approach that vision any time soon.

All of us have hopes for the day after today: our children doing well; ourselves remaining young in spirit and vital; meaningful professional opportunities; sufficient resources to be comfortable; inner strength. We sometimes offer our prayers asking for our hopes to come true, forgetting that God is not a magician, the Grand Genie granting us dreams come true. Harold Schulweis, a leading voice of prophetic conscience, was visionary in his perspective of prayer:

     Prayer is not wishing for results,
     but the reminder to energize
     the means so as to achieve ends of worth.

There is no crystal ball, only a seemingly endless path of uncertainty along which we take measured steps.

We have the faith that in the end we will be fine, and the world will be as it should be. Certainty of the one true path to the world’s redemption is the enemy of free-thought, the nemesis of creative thinking, the path to narcissistic ego, the facilitator of frustration, the downfall of hopeful diversity. I am reassured by the words of Abraham Joshua Heschel: The only certainty in life is that every deed counts, that every word has power, and that we all can do our share to redeem the world despite all the absurdities and all frustrations and all disappointments.

As unnerving as it is, uncertainty in life is not a wall blocking our path, but rather the guiding principle along that path. Psychiatrist and neurologist Gary Schwartz reminds us that quantum physics stands on the premise that everything in the universe is uncertain. Believing that the world will ultimately be as it needs to be, we need not fear missteps or even backsteps, for there may be a shift in our path that might bring us closer to seeing beyond the horizon of today.

For the Talmudic Sages, life is – and must be – based on flexibility and the willingness to rethink our answers and to formulate new questions in our ever-evolving world. It is the commitment to open our ears to listen, to open our hands to help, to open our hearts to shared visions even if there are different paths to that vision.

When we walk the path of uncertainty, we are energized by the presence of those alongside us who care, who share our journey to the light beyond the horizon of today. And we know that whatever insecurity or pain we might feel, others will be with us as we take healthy steps towards the vision of the world as it needs to be.

For more writings by Rabbi Rick, be sure to visit and follow his Facebook page.

Faith & Inspiration, Rabbi Rick Sherwin, What is Judaism's vision of what the world should be like? How can I have peace in the midst of uncertainty? How are we supposed to pray? What are we to ask for when we pray? What can I do with all the uncertainty in the world? How can I make a difference in our world when there is so much going wrong? Will things ever get better? Hope, Gary Schwarz, Talmudic sages, Abraham Joshua Heschel


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