Rabbi Sharon Stiefel
It has been difficult to maintain hope over the past year and a half. Our lives have been riddled with loss and despair. Some of us suffered the devastating loss of loved ones. All of us suffered personally. Even if we did not have a loved one die; all of us, we could say, had proximity to loss or were loss adjacent.
This past June I was invited to teach on the subject of hope for Hineini. The best thing about teaching on a subject is that I get to study it first. I have to say it was a blessing to study hope in these troubled times and, briefly, I want to share a few insights.
One piece of wisdom I gleaned came from Krista Tippett, journalist and “On Being” host. She teaches, in her words, that we need to “keep flexing and strengthening our hope muscle. Hope is a muscle. It’s a choice. It is a vigorous choice, to see what is wrong and what needs healing and needs repair and needs our attention and also to keep our hearts and our imaginations and our energy oriented towards what we want to build, what we want to create, what we’re walking towards.”
I also discovered that, when we find it hard to exercise our own hope muscle, we need to seek out others to nurture it within us. The Talmud, in Berachot 5b, teaches, “A prisoner cannot generally free him (or her) self from prison, but depends on others to release him (or her) from his (or her) shackles. When there are times we cannot muster up hope for ourselves, we must remember that in our loneliest most disconnected moments, we can rely on others to instill hope within us.
Hope is something we have to pursue actively, requires muscle, and sometimes the help of others. My hope, as we navigate whatever challenges we face ahead, is that we persist in our pursuit of hope, actively cultivate it, ask for help when our own hope flags, and be willing to bolster others when theirs does.