On having faith in the future
Recently I received a survey from a Jewish organization. One of the questions asked, "What are you most worried about for the future of the Jewish people?" My response was nothing. I wrote that rather than being nervous about the Jewish future I was excited by it. I am excited to see how we as a people will evolve. I am excited to see how we face the challenges both seen and unseen ahead. I am excited to see how the story of the Jewish people unfolds.
The future can be scary, but it can also be exciting. Rather than ask, "what are you worried about" I prefer to ask, "What are you excited about in regards to the future?" To be certain, going into the future means there will also be a great deal of loss and heartbreak and that should not be dismissed. However, if our peoples story has taught us anything it is that from broken shards we pick up the pieces and build something new and beautiful in its place.
There is a Midrash that Moses is with God and God allows Moses to see the future. Moses gets to see what will become of his life's work. Moses is initially scared and disheartened by the future God shows him, but then in the end realizes a valuable lesson about the nature of the future:
Rabbi Yehuda said in the name of Rav:
When Moshe went up to the Heavens [at Mt. Sinai], he found God sitting and fastening crownlets to the letters of the Torah.
He asked: Master of the universe, who is delaying you [in this way the giving of the Torah]?
God responded: There will be a man who will live many generations from now whose name is Akiva son of Joseph, and he will derive heaps of laws from every jot and tittle.
Moshe said: Master of the universe, show him to me!
God replied: Turn around.
Moshe went and sat behind the eighth row of students [in Akiva's Beit Midrash].
He did not understand what was being said.
Moshe felt faint.
Akiva's students asked: 'Rabbi, what is the source of the authority of these teachings?' Rabbi Akiva replied: Halacha L'Moshe miSinai, This is law given to Moshe at Sinai.'
Moshe's mind settled. (M'nachot 29b)
For me there are many things about this story that resonate. One is that all endeavors evolve. Second is that it is human nature to worry about the future. Lastly, is that the beauty of the world is not in the fruits we pick today (like Moses receiving and giving the Torah at Mt. Siani) but in the seeds we plant for the future (such as the Akiva giving credit to Moses even if the teaching itself was foreign to Moses). Moses had no control over the tree that would grow from his present into the future where Akiva and his students congregated. All he could do was have faith and take heart that the future was and would be in good hands. For as long as there were people who took the essence of the teachings of the Torah seriously, then how those teachings were carried out and understood, was for each generation to decide. And that is a very exciting prospect.