Walking through the late afternoon in Maktesh Ramon, breathing in air that is simultaneously warm and cool the way air in the desert in the late afternoon tends to be (but not at all the way the air in New Jersey tends to be), I overheard a colleague say: “if I’m not enjoying it, I’m doing the wrong thing”. I wasn’t really part of his conversation, more wandering alongside lost in my own moment, so I’m not entirely sure what “it” was. But whatever he meant, he got me thinking.
It is easy to throw around sentences like that one when you are on vacation and the only decision to be made is which of two equally gorgeous hikes to take through the desert. We can love either. But what about loving to do what we’re about the rest of the time: when the sun is not setting over the crater and the sky turning to colors we’ll never see in Princeton, or Joliet or wherever.
I don’t know well the rabbi who was speaking but from what I can tell he certainly seems passionate about the work of his rabbinate. And another rabbi on our trip told me today that she actually was prepared to hate the form her rabbinate had taken until she discovered that she loved her work with the people with whom she engaged day by day. The CEO of Friends by Nature, Nir, got involved in the Ethiopian community when in his post army wanderings he fell in love with an area, met the people there and loved those people even more than the surroundings themselves. He has dedicated his life to that love. Miri Eisen started our day talking to us about the geopolitical reality of Israel given the world in which it exists. She is a woman whose passion for the people of Israel, her love for them and the need to protect them is evident in all she says. In other words, what struck me today was the power of love.
When you love what you do and who you do it with, the impossible sometimes becomes less so. I know we don’t live our lives on vacation where loving what you’re about is easy. I understand that there are plenty of things that all the love in the world is not going to make possible. But I came here to Israel with the CCAR Start Up Israel trip to learn what makes the impossible possible. A MARAM colleague who met with us for lunch and is building in Caesaria one of the newest congregations in Israel — a place where she herself declared there could never be a reform community — told us that she didn’t let herself focus on what couldn’t be. She focused on what she knew in her heart there needed to be. And she shared that love with others. Guess what? They had 100 plus people at the high holidays last year.
My questions then: how do we make the impossible happen? And what’s love got to do with it?