I have been trying in my recent columns to send to you, dear readers, a simple but deeply profound message: LOOK UP!
Looking up means spending at least as much time in gratitude as in complaining — at least as much time taking in the power of our blessings as taking in the pain of our burdens. The advice to look up, as I have taught, comes from the old legend that some people in the Exodus from Egypt in the Bible did not see the great miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea because while walking through the divided sea, with walls of water on the right and left, they never looked up to see the miracles surrounding them. They only looked down, so all they saw was mud. Looking up is the only way to survive this pandemic. Looking up is the only way to keep hope alive in a time of mass despair.
Here is a looking-up story from my life. Please share with me looking-up stories from yours.
This week, I received my second vaccination shot for COVID-19 in a park not far from our home. The experience of getting the second shot was more emotional than getting the first one three weeks ago. The line of cars was long — very long — and moved slowly.
I could have just looked down at the line of cars ahead of me and moaned about the time it took to get through to the needle tent. Instead, I looked up to see the people helping me. I looked up and saw the people who checked my papers with a smile and the ones who wrote on my windshield in pink lipstick some code that meant, "This guy is old and needs us. Let's help him."
These folks could have been curt or dismissive or grouchy, but they were, to a person, smiling and kind. They knew what they were doing was important and that their system worked. There was a second line for the rescue and hospital workers, and police and fire people that moved quickly, getting them through the line faster, which was the right thing. My line moved more slowly.
In the Bible there are two kinds of angels. There are the ministering angels (Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Michael), who spend their time close to God. These angels are not good people with wings. They are angelic beings with wings who never were people. They do not eat or sweat or burp or pass gas (I made up the last two).
The second kind of angels are people whom God has chosen to deliver a message or complete a task here on Earth. They do not even realize they are bringing messages from God. They do not even know that they are angels. They just pursue their human lives, but in doing so they make God's will real in our wounded world.
The lady writing on my windshield in pink lipstick, the guy checking my papers and the nurse who gave me the shot and asked me how I felt — all are angels. I was in a park filled with old folks and angels, and I would not have been able to apprehend their angelic presence unless I looked up. I baked oatmeal raisin cookies for them, and thanked and blessed them. They humbly accepted both the cookies and blessings. One guy declined the cookie. I immediately looked for his wings.
The vaccines we are receiving are miracles sent by God through angels who are doing their best to put these miracles in front us. Our task is to not waste a miracle! I know it is hard for many who are eligible to get an appointment; many are not eligible yet ought to be. However, when it is your turn to get vaccinated, don't say no to a miracle. A doctor told me that one of her patients refused to get vaccinated because she thought the whole thing was a secret plan by the government to inject us with computer chips to keep track of us. That kind of fantasy may cause the woman to die of the virus. This is a choice for self-destruction rather than self-preservation.
Look up and you will see around you kindly, healing people waiting to heal you. Don't listen to those who believe that the vaccine is mud. Say yes to life. Say yes to miracles. Get vaccinated and don't forget to bring cookies.
SEND QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad at email@example.com or Rabbi Marc Gellman, Temple Beth Torah, 35 Bagatelle Rd., Melville, NY 11747.