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  • Writer's pictureJulie Love

Do the Right Thing. Now.

From the Archive: December 2021

It’s the time of year when many cultures have holidays, and holidays have stories, and stories have meaning. The fun part is, the meaning is brought by those hearing the story, as different aspects of it speak to people in their current situation.

For example, Hannukah. Briefly: Israel was occupied by the Greeks, and King Antiochus decided everyone had to assimilate and converted the Temple into a temple for Zeus. There was a rebellion (led by Judah “Hammerhead” Maccabee – unclear whether the nickname referred to his strength or the shape of his skull), and eventually the Jews kicked out the Greeks. When they got to the Temple, they found the eternal flame was extinguished and all but one of the oil jars smashed. The oil takes eight days to prepare, and they had just one day’s worth. They lit the lamp, and legend holds that it burned for eight full days. Thus the festival of Hannukah – lighting candles (the lamp), eating fried food (the oil) and playing dreidel (under oppression, they secretly taught kids Hebrew by hiding it in a game). As one person said: “It’s like most Jewish holidays – they tried to kill us, they failed. Let’s eat.”

Ideally, a traditional story speaks to current struggles as well. I keep thinking of the decision process behind going ahead and lighting the lamp. They’re cleaning up the Temple, and don’t have the supplies for the Eternal Flame, but they will in a week. What should they do? Wait to relight the flame until the oil is ready? But it’s the Eternal Flame – it should be lit as soon as possible! But it’s the Eternal Flame – lighting it and then watching it sputter out tomorrow would also be rather depressing.

Yet they lit it anyway. No one expected a miracle – there’s no suggestion that lighting it was their way of somehow daring the Most High to take care of it tomorrow. I don’t think they were really thinking about the next day much at all. Not ignoring it, but simply focusing on now: the Flame should be burning, so we will light it. Do what is right, do it now. Don’t let fear for the future persuade you to postpone doing the right thing. Don’t wait for a guarantee it will go well.

We see this happening all the time. People often delay doing what they know is good, for fear it won’t work, or won’t last. I don’t want to start medication or therapy without a promise it will work. I won’t start an exercise regimen because I doubt I’ll continue it. I can’t make that phone call or start that conversation until I’m absolutely confident of exactly how it will go. I’m afraid to go to school because I don’t know what challenges I might face. I can’t get out of bed – the “what ifs” are overwhelming.

You don’t need to know the entire journey; start with the first steps, and take those. Trust that they will bring you to a new place where you can see where to go next. If it goes well, wonderful. If it goes badly, even better! We forget that the first step towards doing something well is doing it badly, repeatedly. Know that you will be able to deal with problems (and hopefully learn valuable lessons, like the line between “brave” and “reckless”). Besides, resiliency grows from of managing difficulties. A life that is perfectly smooth (or protected and smoothed for you by others) is really quite scary – since you never learn that you’ll be okay even if there are problems, you deeply doubt you will.

So, be brave, be bold. Start that conversation. Try that new activity. Exercise today without worrying about tomorrow. Light the lamp. And eat some fried food, too. Latkes are amazing.

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