The Imponderables of Life

During the High Holiday season we pray, “Remember us unto life.”  It has been pointed out that in the center of the word “life” is the word “if.” If suggests the unpredictable, tumultuous, precarious, dangerous world in which  we live. For the young people among us it represents the hills and mountains of challenges ahead in relationship, in marriage, in family, in work. The British poet Rudyard Kipling, in a poem entitled If addressed to young people has this memorable line about challenges: “If you can keep your head when all about you, are losing theirs and blaming it on  you, If you can know yourself when all men doubt you, yet make allowance for their doubting too.”
For those in their middle or later years among us the word “if” suggests looking back at our lives as in Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken and asking the question: What if I had taken the other road?
In the center of the Hebrew word for life hayyim are two Hebrew letters each called “yud” representing the name of God, one yud representing God’s presence in our physical, material world and one yud representing God’s presence in the world of spirit and spirituality. The two yuds in the center of the Hebrew word hayyim meaning life point to God’s eternal guidance and love for us in every challenge and at every stage of life. It is this faith that enabled Kipling to conclude his poem with the optimistic line that despite challenges,”Yours is the world and everything that’s in it.” It is this faith underlying Robert Frost’s confident conclusion to his poem:  “Two roads diverged in a wood and I, I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all  the difference.”
Finally there are  the buoyant, encouraging, faith-laden words of Isaiah:
“Let every valley be raised
Every hill and mountain made low
Let the rugged ground become level
And  the ridges become a plain
The Presence of the Lord shall appear
And all flesh, as one, behold,
For the Lord has spoken.
With these words in mind let us pray on these holy days: “Remember us unto life.”









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About Rabbi Joseph Schultz, PhD

Dr. Joseph Schultz served as Rabbi for congregations in Brookline, MA, Norwich, CT and Cambridge, MA. Dr. Schultz founded the Jewish Studies Program at Boston University where he was Assistant Professor of Religion and at the University of Missouri-Kansas City where he was Oppenstein Brothers Distinguished Professor of Judaic Studies. He helped establish the Center for Religious Studies in 1996, a consortium of six colleges, theological schools and the University of Missouri-Kansas City, offering an interdisciplinary graduate program for the PhD in Religious Studies. Dr. Schultz was its first director.

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