There is a passage from Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities that I copied into my notebook and saved when I was a teenager. I have returned to it often over the years, especially when driving through cities and towns:
“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it!”
This may at first seem a depressing image, pointing as it does to our existential aloneness even among those closest to us. But I hear in it as well the possibility of empathy and caring. That each one of us is “a profound secret and mystery to every other” means that we have something essential in common!
Please know that you are not alone in your difficulties and sorrows. The external specifics may vary, but suffering is a natural part of being human and is thus a shared experience.
And most importantly – we have learned throughout the generations that there is comfort and healing in spiritual community. We have learned that the sharing of suffering eases the burden. As members of this congregation, you have the awesome responsibility of being there for one another. And please know that as your rabbi, I am here to accompany you on your human journey as well. Feel free to contact me anytime to arrange a time to talk, or stroll, or cry, or simply sit in silence – together.
In the words of Carl Sagan, from his masterpiece film Contact: “You’re an interesting species. An interesting mix. You’re capable of such beautiful dreams, and such horrible nightmares. You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone, only you’re not. See, in all our searching, the only thing we’ve found that makes the emptiness bearable, is each other.”
We have each other. Please remember that, and act on it. May this be the Torah that we are preparing to receive this spring on Shavuot.