Where the hell is the redemption?

Passover has finally come. I have so many emotions about the holiday I have been thinking about and beginning to record, but I feel the need to post something else first.

Today, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer. A few weeks ago is when he first went to the doctor and found something abnormal, but today still came as a somewhat shock to my family. My father is young and in generally good health. I know that prostate cancer is usually treatable and trust that with proper care he will soon be well.

At the same time, I did have a few moments of tears and an overall day of contemplation. Even with the belief that my father will be okay, a stream of emotions came across me. Cancer is a big word. It brings up all sorts of feelings, and for me it most definitely brings up the idea of mortality. So many loved ones in my life have passed away from complications of cancer. And most recently, my grandfather was diagnosed with stage four throat cancer but is luckily in remission now. This also makes me question my own death and have the feeling that cancer is also inevitably in my future. It is news like this that makes me realize what little control I have over life, and that scares me.

I live my life with a fairly realistic outlook. I know death is inevitable, and I hope when the day comes I will accept and maybe even embrace it. I know that other things in life are also out of my control. As much as I want to accept this, I find a part of me fighting. I am not angry at Hashem but frustrated by my lack of understanding. I am in the middle of Passover, a holiday about redemption, and receiving bad news and reflecting on the fact that there are bad things in the world. I have to ask myself, where the hell is the redemption?

I understand that being redeemed does not mean that everything is perfect, and making the world a better place is something we do have some control over. These are just my current frustrations. I will continue to celebrate Passover. I will continue to not eat chametz. Even though, I am not yet liable, not part of Israel, and sure don’t feel redeemed (right now).

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My Family will be Mourning. My Heart will be Full of Joy.

Since the beginning of Lent, I have felt strange not following the liturgy. Ever since I was young, Lent was my favorite liturgical season (yes, I have favorite liturgical seasons) and the services of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday were even more anticipated than midnight Christmas Mass. In years prior, I already felt removed from the Lenten narrative, but like many non practicing or believing Christians I still abstained or added a practice for Lent. For me, this was not so much about Lent as just a practice in self-control and trying to move closer to Hashem. This was the first year that I in no way participated in even the most remote practices of Lent or Easter. This is also the first year I will not be with my family on Easter. Which I made sure to let them know was not because I didn’t support their religious practices, but because the timing of Passover prevents me from visiting family.

Last year, was the first time in my life that I said “halleluyah” during Lent. The Catholic Church does not sing halleluyah during Lent because it is a time of mourning, but since I would daven the Shema and Amidah each day I would quietly say it to myself. This year, the first Shabbat after Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent) was the  first time I publicly said “halleluyah.” I remember the moment it came to say “halleluyah” in the repetition of the Amidah. I took a deep breath and with strength and joy I declared, “halleluyah.” For everyone else in the shul, the moment came and passed unnoticed, but for me it was a clear declaration of my theology and praise for Hashem.

In the Western Church, the Lenten season is coming to an end. This is an intense time for many Christians as Palm Sunday has passed and there is anxiety as the liturgy goes through the last days of Jesus’ life on earth and eventual death.  These days lead up Easter, which is full of joy, but in the mean time many Christians are stricken with grief. All of lent has been a time of mourning, but it culminates in these last few days of the season. This year the last days of Lent coincide with the beginning of Pesach (Passover). Now with Pesach approaching, I await the moments of looking up to the heavens and joyfully singing Hallel. I can’t help but feel strange by the fact that as I open my heart to let the praise and joy flood out for Hashem and redemption my family will all be without liturgy of praise and in a moment of emptiness. Jews and Christians around the world are set in tension on Friday and Saturday when one community experiences Hashem answering their cries for freedom and the other community is crying with great loss. Friday night and Saturday are moments  when the people of Israel are being drawn closer to redemption and freedom and Christians are ultimately in a state of emptiness and darkness. The Israelites are on their first steps towards returning to Israel and Christians are deeper in exile from freedom than any other time.

When my heart is full of joy for bnei Israel (children of Israel) from all generations that are making their way from slavery to freedom, my family, along with all Christians, is mourning. I will sing songs of praise and scream from the depths of my soul “HALLELUYAH,” while they sit in a place of darkness.

Before the weekend is up, they too will experience freedom in their own way. Yet, still, the tension will remain.