The only way to truly feel safe is by letting go
ON Rosh Hashanah, we reaffirm the great truth that Hashem is King. Hashem is in charge, and we aren’t. Hashem determines our fate, and we don’t.
Ironically, it’s liberating to recognize our total dependency because we no longer carry the burden of impossible responsibility. Try as we might to control our destinies, we will never succeed; permission to give up is a blessing.
I get terrified when there is a lightning storm, and I’ll do anything to avoid going outside when it rains — just in case. I mean, people die from lightning, you know.
Sure I know. People die from all sorts of things. Tripping on the sidewalk. Car crashes. Terrorist attacks. Slow diseases and sudden heart attacks. This world is a scary place.
Trying to Beat the System
Some people think they can work around the danger by being extra careful. The person who won’t go outside in the rain, like the person who refuses to fly in an airplane and the person who wears five masks to walk alone outdoors, is trying to “beat the system.” But Hashem has put us in a dangerous world in a state of utter vulnerability with the expectation that we’ll go out into the world to support our families, interact with our communities, and take our kids to school — even though none of us can ever count on coming home alive.
I don’t go to indoor malls. A lot of crazy things happen in those places. I shop online — it’s much safer.
Right. A lot of people think that staying put — in their own home — is the safest thing they can do. I know someone who felt that way too — until a car drove through her living room one day while she was sitting in her La-Z-Boy rocker, reading her magazine.
Fortunately, she survived (the house had to be completely rebuilt), but the experience left her keenly aware that you can’t hide from the King’s decree.
This was a woman whose anxiety about her health had overtaken her life before the incident. “What if this headache is really a tumor?” “What if this rash is something serious?” Her obsession with the possibility of dying brought her to the doctor many times each month. “It’s important to check these things out. I know someone who waited too long to see the doctor, and then he died of stomach cancer.”
Of course you don’t want to die. This is a problem for us humans because we are fully aware that we’ll die. We just don’t know how, when, or where. The details are up to Hashem — another thing that we know. But it’s not until we crown Hashem King that we can really know this truth. Until then we might go to the doctor five times a month, “just in case.” We allow the doctor’s reassurance to be the source of our safety — even though we know that doctors can make mistakes. We allow our homes to lend reassurance — even though we know that deadly accidents happen in homes all the time.
We’re looking everywhere for safety and reassurance, but the only place we’ll find it is in our own hearts; we won’t be safe until we recognize and acknowledge that Hashem protects us in this world and on the way to the next. The twin concepts of Kingship and judgment (destiny) form the essence of Rosh Hashanah and the essence of our faith. It’s up to Hashem.
Live Your Life
So, how is one supposed to live amidst all the danger and uncertainty? Normally. One should do whatever people in her time/place/culture consider to be normal activities. Is it normal to get into a car? Then do it. Is it normal to go outside when it’s raining? Then please go. The idea is that you should protect yourself to some extent (e.g., wear your seatbelt, glasses, etc.); don’t do anything that’s obviously risky (e.g. stand under an umbrella alone in a flat farm field during a lightning storm), and then go about life.
If the King has decreed that this is your time and place, then it will be, and if it hasn’t been so decreed, then it won’t be. You can’t keep yourself “safe.”
And that’s precisely why it’s so relaxing to crown Hashem King. Because you finally acknowledge that you’re not in charge, and after you’ve taken appropriate, normal steps, then everything is out of your hands. When you really believe this, you can finally relax and live life.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 811)
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