A story relayed by Rabbi Joseph Potasnik of the New York Board of Rabbis:
Simon Wiesenthal tells a meaningful story of an inmate who smuggled a Siddur into a concentration camp. Wiesenthal admired the man's courage, but soon his feelings changed dramatically. He saw the inmate bartering a few minutes use of the prayerbook for food rations. The inmates although emaciated were ready to make the exchange. Following the war, a rabbi organized a prayer service in the Displaced Person's Camp, but Wiesenthal refused to attend. He told the rabbi of his earlier experience which had soured him on religion. The rabbi upon hearing the complaint, commented, "Why do you only look at the one who took? What about the greatness of the others who were so willing to trade their morsels of food for a few moments of prayer." Wiesenthal reflected on these comments and returned to services the next day.
I know that there are those who view the problems facing our people through negative lenses, while others see the crises as challenging opportunities for change.
This story is a Jewish personification of the glass-half-full/glass-half-empty metaphor. As we go through life, we often encounter people who find the good in any situation--even those situations where others only see the negative. Whenever I hear the saying, "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade" I often think of one dear friend. This year the only good that has come of her tragedy (like the prayer book in the Concerntration camp) is a lot of prayer and lovingkindness from others. It just isn't enough.
PS On a another note, I joined Deborah and the kids at Camp Ramah New England for the weekend. It was the shabbat of staff week. It is great to be in an environment filled with energy and love of Judaism, Jews, Israel and Hebrew. As the staff and their families gathered for Kabbalat Shabbat in the horshah(grove) next to the stunning Beit Midrash complex (library, synagogue, and educational center), college students spending their summer as counselors led moving services. For kabbalat shabbat, they did my personal favorate tunes--the nusach of Shlomo Carlebach.
It is always amazing to participate in a group davening with these tunes and I enjoyed the experience but . . . In the middle I leaned over to a rabbinical student who has a senior role at camp and lamented the death of Nusach Ramah ( the special tunes for Friday night services that were a hallmark of Ramah all over the country). He has been at camp for a bunch of summers and didn't even know what I was talking about. Like everyone speaking primarily in Hebrew, singing Bialik's poem Shabbat Ha-Malkah before kiddush, there goes another beloved Ramah tradition. I am happy that campers and staff will know nusach Carlebach (very popular on campus and with younger congregations across the country), but it would be great if they also knew the special contributions of the Ramah movement on Nusach America.