I was doing a text study at a Jewish music conference and found myself staring at a quote from Ecclesiastes thinking, ”This is terrible.” A colleague of mine had recently died, quite suddenly and leaving behind a husband and a very young daughter. I didn’t know her very well though we overlapped in school by a few years. Still, the whole situation hit me hard and I struggled with the vast unfairness of it all.
The bible quote, a familiar one to many, goes like this: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose.” I couldn’t help but think back to Leah, her heart-broken husband and daughter, and wonder what they would make of the Bible’s suggestion that there was a purpose to her death. What do we do when the texts we turn to for comfort and wisdom provide only sweeping generalities and a chilling lack of compassion?
We want to believe that we are nearly immortal. We make plans days and weeks and years ahead despite never knowing if we’ll be alive to see them fulfilled. We have almost no control over our destinies; and that’s enough to terrify anyone.
It also makes me angry. This utterly unsympathetic text, the tragic passing of a colleague, the thought that my own children might be left fatherless or motherless someday. In my anger and sadness, I wrote a few verses of what became the song These Things Will Happen.
But it’s not enough just to dwell on the unfairness of life. The text continues not so many verses later with a ray of hope: “Therefore, do good with [your] life.” V’laasot tov b’chayav. “Life sucks,” Ecclesiastes tells us. It’s filled with spite, death, and chaos, but we can make the choice to do good with what life we’re given. Knowing that every human faces the same possibility of tragedy, we can choose to help others, to give back, to take care of the poor and the stranger, and push on through our own challenges with the hope that others will follow our lead and support us in our time.
There is a time for death and a time for hope. One we get to choose and the other we don’t. So let’s choose.
This is one of a series of posts exploring the intersection of rock and spirituality, leading up to the release of In Pursuit, an album of original Jewish hard rock. Sign up for the mailing list to learn more.