Friday, August 24, 2007

Never despair!!

There has been a lot of press about the new book of Mother Teresa's private writings and how she spent the last decades of her life in a deep spiritual crisis where she could not feel the presence of God. Some people are shocked to hear that a woman seen as such a great symbol of piety and service to God could suffer such a crisis of faith.

But Teresa is hardly the first spiritual leader to have a "dark night of the soul." Last week, I spent some time reading Art Green's biography of the hasidic master Rav Nachman, a book that he entitles "The Tormented Master" precisely because Nachman struggled so much with his faith and -- like Teresa -- often felt God to be very distant.

This distance, however, is not the legacy Nachman left. Green concludes his book with an account of some of Nachman's final words to his followers. "It is forbidden to despair!," Nachman is reported to have said despite his weakness from his final illness. "Gevaldt! Never despair!”

It is the spirit of this statement that Nachman left to his followers, Green says, and is why they continue to follow his path to this day.

As we head into this Shabbat that prepares us for the fast-approaching High Holidays, I leave with with these words from the Psalm for the High Holidays,
Psalm 27:

שְׁמַע-יְהוָה קוֹלִי אֶקְרָא
Hear, Lord, my voice when I cry

וְחָנֵּנִי וַעֲנֵנִי.
And be gracious to me and answer me.

לְךָ, אָמַר לִבִּי--בַּקְּשׁוּ פָנָי; ׁ.
For Your sake, "seek My Face", says my heart

אֶת-פָּנֶיךָ יְהוָה אֲבַקֵּש
Your Face, Lord, I seek.

אַל-תַּסְתֵּר פָּנֶיךָ, מִמֶּנִּי:
Do not hide Your Face from me.

May God be with you in all that you do, and may you never know despair.

Shabbat Shalom.

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