Years ago, I participated in a substance abuse prevention conference in Washington, D.C. One of the speakers was a Jewish woman who’d wrestled with addiction for years. She shared her journey to recovery highlighting her struggles with self-esteem, religious shame, and running from her faith. But she also spoke of the surprising places of support and love from friends and strangers that continued to invite her back to herself, to see herself authentically, honestly. And then, in mid-sentence, as if she’d not heard her own words before, she added inquisitively, “My . . . True . . . Self.” She paused a moment, smiled as she raised an apologetic hand and choked back some tears before continuing.
“I just remembered a story my mother used to tell me,” she said. “There was a well known Hassidic rabbi, Zusya, who came to his followers looking troubled. The people asked him, “Zusya, what is the matter?”
The Rabbi told them about a vision he’d had saying, “I learned the questions the angels will one day ask me about my life.”
This puzzled his listeners for they knew Zusya to be a very pious, scholarly man. “You have helped so many of us, Rebbe. What question about your life could be so terrifying that you’d be frightened to answer it?”
Zusya replied, “In that day, the angels will not ask me, ‘Why weren’t you a Moses, leading your people out of slavery?’ or ‘Why weren’t you a Joshua, leading your people into the promised land?’” Zusya sighed, “Instead, they will ask me, ‘Zusya, why weren’t you Zusya?’”
There was silence in the room as the young woman, now one of the directors with the National Institute on Substance Abuse and Education in D.C., stood silently and then sat down. After a moment, we all stood up and applauded, some smiling broadly. Some of us wiping away tears. I’m not sure we all fully understood what had just happened. But I feel certain most of us knew we’d been honored to be present at the transformation of someone who’d come time and again to the precipice of a well-worn personal story and was now suddenly seeing it for the first time.
This Sunday we continue our search for authentic meanings of “salvation,” as we look to where we find “light in the darkness.” It might have something to do with the question the angels are asking us.
Sunday, March 13, at 9:39 and 11:11
“Let’s Get Saved!”
with the music of the Squirrel Nut Zippers,
Susan Werner and Susan Tedeschi
featuring guest trumpeter, Rigo Velez of the UNT One O’clock Lab Band
and all our singers and musicians back with the revolution band!
See you then,