27 August, 2010

"With a little help from my friends"

"With a little help from my friends" cover by Joe Cocker.
The past couple of weeks have been hard all around and not only for me. The city, Jerusalem, experienced yet another heat wave, reaching over 41C and full humidity. This makes people lose what very little patience they have and essentially eliminates tolerance as far as I can tell. School, really Hebrew ulpan, finished a couple days ago and this last stretch was the hardest. So many people really starting to feel the ache for home; some are able to quench that by seeing loved ones, some not. The anxiety of starting the fall semester, the first of grad school, is palpable on campus.

There have been a couple overriding themes too over the last few weeks. The first is that life goes on. The second is that when the first happens, friends are there.
Relationships start, end, mature. Children are born, grow, change. Health problems develop, subside, overtake. Perspectives solidify, evolve, dissolve. Mental fortitude solidifies, morphs, crumbles. Life goes on.

Conversations spring up in the middle of the night and the wee hours of the morning. They last for hours and outweigh other activities. A simple phone call to say "I'm thinking of you" has more power than one can even imagine. A note on a board letting someone know that they are cared for, a tremendous impact. A text in the morning to say hello from across an ocean, immeasurable. A hug.

In the midst of life happening, so do friends. The reason this journey is bearable and enjoyable: friends. There is another song, this one courtesy NFTY (the Reform Jewish youth group) which has some lyrics:
"Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow
Don't walk behind me, I may not lead
Just walk beside me, and be my friend"
[depending on the version, the next several lines are varied].
One of the things I take from this song, is that just being present, just existing together is sometimes what you need in a friend. Someone to walk with you.

In a lecture this week, we went over some selections from this amazing set of books, titled: יטורי תורה, which I'm going to breakdown and buy here in Israel. We focused only on the last book which dealt with the ימים נוראים, [yamim nora'im] the days of awe, which are rapidly approaching. From the seventh book on the holy days, on page 9, here's a very rough summary of one of the texts:
A man was lost walking in the forest for a few days and didn't know the way out. He happened upon another man who came from a different direction and instantly thought this man knew the way. This second man was also wandering in the forest lost for a few days and could only share the ways he had tried, which clearly did not work. What he said to the first man was this: and now, let us go together, and find the right way.

We may not know the path someone took to get where they are, and they may not know that of us. We can share our experiences and the lessons we were taught through those experiences. We can lend an ear, a shoulder, a hand. We can give what we need; we can be what we need: a friend. Together we will make it out of the forest, as life happens all about us.


  1. You ARE keeping this to use as a sermon, yes?

  2. I hadn't really thought about it, these are just the thoughts going on in my head at this point. Perhaps with some time and refining, it could make it there. I'm glad you liked it.