If you wandered around the Marina del Rey, CA docks a few years back, you might have found my husband on his hands and knees, polishing the teak on his cherished sailboat. Sun and salt water are both tough on wood, so it was a job that constantly needed doing.
Polishing wood was therapeutic. Daily life is filled with activities that only give us delayed feedback. As the rabbi of a congregation, a business-owner, a husband and a father, it was frequently difficult for my husband to know how things were actually going. A discouraging week could be followed by a productive one, a brilliant speech could be followed by one that fell flat. Did we over-react or under-react to a child’s problem? In many cases, it is a matter of weeks, months, years and even a lifetime before we can gauge our success.
Not so with teak. One sets out to tackle a worn, tired looking patch of deck and after applying polish, time and elbow grease that same area is a shiny pleasure to behold. Of course the change won’t last, but for a short while you know that the job is well done.
My version of wood polishing is tidying up, and one of my favorite things to tidy is bookshelves. I love seeing favorite editions lined up neatly and I delight in greeting volumes I haven’t perused for a while. Last week, as the world spun out of control, I organized many years’ accumulation of children’s books.
While the authorities that instantaneously knew that the murderer of church members in Charleston was motivated by racism but found themselves confused as to what could possibly have motivated the murderer of five military members, I sorted books. While politicians explained that giving nuclear weapons to those who hate us would bring peace, I alphabetized fiction. While newspapers covered up stories of violent crime unless the “right” people were the victims, I labelled biographies.
Amidst it all, I prayed. Yes, I called my political representatives telling them of my concern about the Iran debacle and I took my own private steps to add merit to the world’s balance, but most of all, I prayed. The hatred for God’s guidance, the growing anti-Semitism and anti-Christianism in the world, the betrayal of America’s foundations and the irrational blame placed on Israel demand that we resist these ‘advances’ with all our human effort. However, we will only defeat them with God’s mercy and help. So, I pray for peaceful years when my grandchildren can cuddle up with books, their imaginations venturing far afield while their families and homes provide a safe and secure oasis among a world once again running amok.