November 6, 2021
As we enter the third-day post-election without a definitive victor in the presidential race and as both senate races in Georgia appear to be heading to a runoff election in January, it is getting difficult for many of us to be patient awaiting the outcomes in this nail-biter of an election.
In Hebrew, the word for patience is savlanut; it derives from the Hebrew root sevel which means “to bear.” Patience literally connotes holding weight, bearing a burden. How can we bear the burden of what many of us are experiencing as a challenging time?
Rabbi Marc Margolius teaches this story from the Talmud about how we need to lean on each other for support and healing.
“Rabbi Yochanan visits his ailing student Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba, asking him, “Is your suffering welcome to you?” Rabbi Ḥiyya replies: “I welcome neither this suffering nor its [alleged] reward.” Rabbi Yoḥanan simply asks Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Abba to give him his hand, lifts him up, apparently restoring him to health.
Sometime later when Rabbi Yoḥanan falls ill, Rabbi Ḥanina goes to visit him. He said to him “Is your suffering welcome to you?” Rabbi Yohanan replies, “I welcome neither this suffering nor its [alleged] reward.” He said to him, “Give me your hand.” Rabbi Yohanan gave him his hand and Rabbi Hanina raised Rabbi Yohanan up, restoring him to health.
The Talmud asks why Rabbi Yoḥanan could not have healed himself, since apparently he has the power to do so. Because, the text answers, “a prisoner cannot generally free himself from prison, but depends on others to release him from his shackles.” (Talmud Brachot 5b)
The Talmud’s response teaches us that we cannot free ourselves from our suffering. It’s a beautiful tale about how we need each other when times are hard. No matter how learned, wise, or spiritually advanced we are, we need to lean on each other.
As we enter Shabbat, I’m grateful for the time we’ll have to gather together as community tonight and tomorrow to offer prayers and feel the support of our tradition and our community. And on Sunday at 4 p.m., the Evanston Interfaith Clergy and Leaders group, a consortium of spiritual leaders of Evanston congregations, will be gathering in Raymond Park to offer prayers for healing and hope. Because of the uptick in COVID-19 cases in our area, in order to keep everyone safe, we will not be inviting others to gather in person. Instead, we will livestream the event on Beth Emet’s Facebook page.
May we find peace on this Shabbat, and may we provide support, strength, and comfort to each other.