By Rabbi Joel Mosbacher
I recently started rowing. I started rowing because I was feeling out of shape; I felt like I was getting too creeky, sitting too much. I was running out of gas too often by the end of the day. I was watching my cholesterol numbers do things that were, shall we say, suboptimal. And I was, if I’m entirely honest, a little afraid to go back to my doctor one more time and admit that, no, I was still not getting any regular exercise.
It’s been fun so far. The classes are interesting – never the same thing twice, which is good for me. The teachers are firm but patient, pushing me to push myself, and understanding when I need to take a break. And even when I feel the burn of the workout the next day, I know that teachers like Shae and Rachmel and Luis will both be patient with me, and they’ll gently nudge me to come back. And, most importantly, only a few weeks in, I can feel myself getting stronger. I can feel muscles I didn’t remember I had becoming more toned. My endurance is already much better than it was when I started.
My friends, I am going to admit to you that the news these days also leaves me breathless. It beats me down – pick a news channel or a newspaper of your choice. It can leave one weak, at a loss for what to do. My twitter and facebook feeds can, at times, leave me scared, even traumatized.
So what does a rabbi do when she or he feels this way? Here’s the inside scoop: even rabbis need rabbis. So what do I do when I feel this way? I talk to my rabbis. And I am always looking for more rabbis. They are not always actual ordained rabbis, but they are people who, like Shea and Rachmel and Luis, are both patient with my pain, and, lovingly, insistently, help me get back on the rowing machine that is the work of world repair.
Just as I was feeling most spiritually out of breath this week, I, fortunately, ran into one of my rabbis, David Adelson, an actual ordained rabbi and the dean of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. I had the luxury of spending a bunch of time with Rabbi Adelson, and he shared with me a profound teaching that I needed to hear: hope, he said, is a muscle that we need to exercise. Hope is a muscle that we need to exercise. I’ve been thinking a lot about that.
Right now, I am keenly aware that hope, like my abs and triceps, is a muscle, and boy, do I need to exercise it. Anyone with me for a hope workout?
Hope is a muscle. Let’s exercise it. We’ve got work to do. We’ve got places to go. We’ve got muscles to flex. We’ve got strength to build. Let’s help each other through the pain. Let’s keep each other coming back, even when it hurts, even when we’re tired and sore. And let’s seek solutions that beckon to us, and not just wallow in the problems that scream at us.