March 30, 2020

Rabbi’s Advice: How to Heal Your Heart in Today’s Politics

Sometimes, everything feels broken. Our country is rocking with political chaos. There is so much to be worried about, from deadly flu strains to economic instability. On top of this chaos, everyone is dealing with personal challenges and crises.

How and when will the divisions be healed? Will we ever feel safe? Do we dare to hope for a world that is less angry, more kind and more generous?

It’s not “nice” to do but “necessary” to find ways to be grounded and, dare I say, hopeful. Becoming bitter and angry may feel good and justified for a while, but then you figure out these emotions can eat you alive.

Here are a few ways to keep yourself centered:

In spite of everything:

Think about Anne Frank. The Frank family hid in an attic before she and her family were discovered and deported to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Anne and her sister, Margot, died there in 1945. Anne was 15.

I think about Anne a lot. I wonder how she could have written these words in her diary:

“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

Anne never saw the end of the war. She never saw Germany defeated or justice done at the Nuremberg trials. Yet, somehow, this young woman clung to hope and optimism: “Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”

Remember Anne, and think about what you can do today to find a bit of beauty. 

The arc that bends toward justice:

Another perspective that helps broaden our perspective is this one from Unitarian minister Theodore Parker. He wrote, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Justice and change take time, but there is an ever-increasing march toward the truth, albeit sometimes as slow as molasses.

Becoming bitter and angry may feel good and justified for a while, but then you figure out these emotions can eat you alive.

Claudette Colvin was a brave 15-year-old African American schoolgirl who refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on the bus she rode in Alabama in 1955. This was before Rosa Parks’ refusal to change seats on a bus. Fifty-three years later, the first black president was elected, opening the doors of possibility forever.

Think of Claudette. What can you do to stand up or speak out, even if you don’t know the outcome?

On that day …: 

In dark times, affirm your deepest hopes. The Kaddish prayer, recited at funerals and in memory of those we have lost, is a waterfall of praise to God. The prayer reminds us, compels us, to not give in to despair.

Our Aleinu prayer, chanted at the conclusion of daily prayer services ends with: “Bayom hahu yiheyeh adonai echad u’shemo echad.” (“On that day, God will be One and the world will be one.”)

On a day to come, we will be united, we will come together and the world will be one. This vision is worth fighting for, even when it feels very far away.

Singer Matisyahu echoes this sentiment in his song “One Day”:

Sometimes in my tears I drown
But I never let it get me down
So when negativity surrounds
I know some day it’ll all turn around
Because
All my life I’ve been waiting for
I’ve been praying for
For the people to say
That we don’t wanna fight no more
They’ll be no more wars
And our children will play
One day (one day), One day (one day)

Stay connected to hope. What can you do this week to stay inspired, to keep your faith and to gather with others?


Rabbi Jill Berkson Zimmerman is a rabbi-at-large. Her website can be found here. She works with individuals in spiritual guidance and teaches widely. For weekly inspiration, sign up for her newsletter.