A few years ago, in the midst of one of those weeks when the news was utterly depressing and demoralizing, a rabbi I followed on Twitter posted something akin to “I have no idea what to do for a sermon this week. All I can think is ‘Life sucks. Shabbat shalom!’”
It was a joke of course. A painful one, nihilistic and morose, and also a really funny non-sequitur. I couldn’t get the line out of my head. Life sucks. Shabbat shalom. It was brilliant in its simplicity. I still use the line to this day. Because, let’s face it, life does suck. All the time. No big revelation there. Our bodies are constantly breaking down, often in surprising ways and at inconvenient times. The world is filled with endless exemplars of greed, selfishness, short-sightedness, and hypocrisy. And when it comes down to it, every one of us will die and we have no idea when that will happen. Shabbat shalom!
I’ll freely admit that the idea that I will someday close my eyes and never open them again fills me with heart-pounding dread. And I believe that that existential dread drives so much of others’ evil behavior. If our time is limited, then we are easily driven to see material wealth and physical gratification as scarce resources that must be hoarded or indulged. The drive for power and control is surely an ingrained response to the undeniable and unstoppable fate that awaits us all at some point. Life sucks. It sucks for all of us, all of the time. And on top of it we are all fallible, so even if we’re generally trying to be kind and compassionate and polite, sometimes we mess up and turn into jerks anyway.
So, yeah, life sucks. But also, there’s Shabbat. Judaism’s response to all of this existential dread and inevitable decay is to say: Shabbat shalom. One day each week to find some peace and take some time to appreciate what you have, where you are, and who you are with. Don’t get lost in what’s coming next — learn to love being present. You gotta work and there are a million tasks to get done every week, but work isn’t everything. We all need a break and our tradition gives us one every week, gift-wrapped and ready-made.
Even more than that, “Shabbat shalom” is a greeting from one person to another. It’s utterly meaningless except in the context of being with other people. So, yeah, life sucks, but you can make it easier by coming together in community. Build connections with loved ones, family, friends, acquaintances, and neighbors. Be a part of something bigger than your bubble and discover that meaning makes life better. Hey, life is hard and that’s what it means to be alive. But I’ve got family, friends, and I can be grateful for everything I do have.
Life sucks. Shabbat shalom.
To get more messages like this in your inbox and to learn about new music from Jamie Marx, please fill out the form below.