by Leah R. Berkowitz
“Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy”—Exodus 20:8
In the midst of my first week in the rabbinate, I found myself combing the grocery stores in my new city for Sabbath candles and challah, the braided egg bread that we eat at festive meals. I must have been at my third store when a colleague called me on my cellphone. After explaining my predicament, I exclaimed, “Aren’t we supposed to have wives for this?”
For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. –Ephesians 2:14
As I have travelled to different parts of the world, met many people and worked at different churches, I have witnessed time and time again God uniting groups that appear to have nothing in common. My experience of calling has not been to a specific church or hospital. I feel called when I participate. I feel called when I witness the power of God’s peace breaking down all human differences, and I want to take part. When I’m surrounded by inspiring people who never let anything get in the way of their love for others, I feel called. My calling has come from within, after moments of witnessing the uniting power of God’s peace.
My husband and I were running errands one Saturday when we stopped at a local bookstore. I noticed a display of books in the center aisle and realized I had never heard of them. The covers were decorated with solid, bold colors and a large bird.
“The Hunger Games? What’s that?” I asked my husband.
“Oh, The Hunger Games,” he replied. “All of my students at the high school are reading them. They can’t seem to put them down. They walk down the hallways with their noses buried in the books and when I ask them a question, they tell me to wait so they can finish the paragraph!”
“Really?” I replied. “Well, then they must be good.”
I was enraptured by the Harry Potter series and recently finished The Twilight Saga, so I was anxious to read another great young person’s series. So I bought the first book in what is The Hunger Games trilogy. I read it in two days. And two days later, I bought the other two books. I finished all three of them in one week. They are well-written, intensely violent, page-turning thrillers. Plus they have a great female protagonist. Not the stuff of the Bible, right?
I didn’t even see them, so corroded they were by dirt and time and tossed just off of the worn gravel cement path into the kind of grassy weeds that edge city blocks and line neighborhood sidewalks. I’d like to say I was too captivated by brilliant fall colors, too caught up in a dusky cool breeze to notice them—but the truth is that I was lost in the sort of funk and fatigue that wraps one up in a fog of just getting by, focused on too many what-if's and should-have's and I-wish's to be present in any given moment.
Abruptly my walking companion called out, “You know why we don’t notice these?”
“Huh?” I said without a hint of eloquence, having not even heard her words and unable to see what she held between thumb and forefinger even as I stopped and turned towards her.
“You know why we don’t notice these?” she repeated, and then, as her palm opened to reveal the two old pennies she’d just picked up, the ones I hadn’t even noticed, she answered her own question, “because we think they don’t matter.”