Some of my earliest memories are of sitting in the sanctuary of our synagogue in New Jersey in the town where I grew up. I remember the beauty of the building, but beyond its splendor, I remember the feeling of peace that I felt when I entered the building and sat on the bench with my family. It seemed that the synagogue was the only place I felt peace.
My world, like most of my friends, was a swirl of emotions and fears. I was dealing with the turmoil of the death of my father who died from cancer when I was seven years old. On top of that, like most of young people of my generation, my childhood memories outside the synagogue were filled with the swirl of the early 70’s. The television was filled with reports of the war in Vietnam, the impeachment and sudden resignation of President Nixon, and the radical changes that were taking place culturally in the United States. My days in school were just as confusing because, in between lessons in math and history, I remember the sirens blasting and rushing to crawl under our desks to practice hiding in case the Russians fired nuclear missiles at us.
In the middle of all of the drastic changes that were taking place all around me, the one place that was consistent in my life was my synagogue. That is not to say that nothing was swirling or changing at the synagogue, or that the synagogue itself was an oasis of calm in the middle of a world that was changing at what seemed to be breakneck speeds. The peacefulness I felt at synagogue was not because the synagogue was free from the storms that were taking place all around me. The peace I felt was actually because of those storms. I was experiencing “peace in the midst of the storm.”
The reason that I felt this peace is what I wanted to share this week. As I said above, I didn’t feel peace because the synagogue was free from problems. It has been said often that as long as people are present, pro