As the saying goes, crap happens. Whether one believes the crap is of one's own doing, the making of others, or part of the Divine plan, the crap still happens. Into each life a little crap must fall, so to speak.
Getting through the crap is a problem that has plagued humankind since time immemorial. We have devised all sorts of methods and rationales to do so. Divine plan is one that has been well worn. We've even rationalized that good things can come from bad things when part of the Divine plan (witness the story of Joseph, and even the subsequent slavery in Mitzrayim.)
Some posit that is we are having crap problems, then it must be something we have done to bring the crap upon us. This personal responsibility model is certainly popular of late, but it was no less popular in earlier times, in different manifestations. It even found its way into the unfortunately popular concept of "original sin." Now, Torah does tell us that the sins of one generation will be visited upon future generations, however Torah never suggests this is a perpetual state of retribution, unlike the continual issue that "original sin" creates, according to many Xtian theologians.
Some of us are blamers. When crap happens, it must be someone else's fault. This is another popular idea that has, unfortunately, seen too much light of day, finding it's ultimate horror in the Shoah, and continuing even today in ethnic cleansing and other atrocities. Still others of us blame not just others, but, more specifically, Gd, for the crap. They rail and rant against Gd, asking Gd how these things can happen to us. One type of response to that is to give up on Gd, to claim Gd does not exist, or there would not be crap in the world, especially when bad crap that happens to good people. Others intertwine the personal responsibility model with the blame model, on the one hand admitting their sins, and on the other bemoaning the unfairness of Gd's justice.
But there's another model of responding to life's crap that too often is overlooked. It's the same one the prophet Habakkuk presents in the closing verses of the special Haftarah for Shavuot II.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud And no yield is on the vine, Though the olive crop has failed And the fields produce no grain, Though sheep have vanished from the fold And no cattle are in the pen, 18 Yet will I rejoice in the Lord, Exult in the God who delivers me. 19 My Lord God is my strength: He makes my feet like the deer's And lets me stride upon the heights. (JPS)
Faith. Faith in Gd. A lot of crap has happened to the Israelites in Habakkuk's time. Yet, after a long theophany, in which an angry and triumphant Gd takes vengeance on Israel's enemies and restores Israel to glory, Habakkuk admits it is but a wish, a dream:
16 I heard and my bowels quaked, My lips quivered at the sound; Rot entered into my bone, I trembled where I stood. Yet I wait calmly for the day of distress, For a people to come to attack us. (JPS)
Thus admitting that things are really crappy, Habakkuk goes on to offer his suggestion for coping, in verses 17-19 that I quoted previously. Faith. Simple faith. Though everything about him is crappy, Habakkuk delights in Gd. In this is the power to persevere. To continue when all about us is crap.
It has been thousands of years, and the children of Israel are still here, still praying to Adnai. Still complaining to Adnai. Still breaking the covenant with Adnai. Still being stiff-necked and obstinate. But guess what folks? If the Israelite people, those with a covenant with Gd are still here, it stands to reason that their benefactor, their creator, Adnai, is still around too. If we, too, can find a way to delight in Adnai, then we have a way through the crap as well, as Habakkuk did.
In a most wonderful ending, Habakkuk closes his book with:
For the leader; with instrumental music. (JPS)
One of the many ways I find and maintain my faith is with music and song. It's nice to know that Habakkuk felt the same.
May the simple message of faith of the prophet Habakkuk speak to you this Shabbat and Shavuot, and may it be your guide, your light, to wend your way through life's crap. And may music and song be a path to that faith.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach Shavuot,
©2000 by Adrian A. Durlester
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