Crashing Markets and Light Fixtures


I almost died last Thursday night. OK, perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration, but I certainly came quite close to getting seriously injured. I think.

There I was in my kitchen – happily reheating some holiday leftovers, blissfully gabbing away on the phone, when all of a sudden my conversation was pierced by the sound of smashing glass. I immediately thought that I, or rather my enormous belly, (no, haven't let myself go – I'm just seven months pregnant) was to blame for the incident, as I've been noticing that my belly gets to places well before I do these days. But upon examining the room, I realized that my baby bump was absolved from all guilt, as it was actually a light fixture, mere inches from my head, that had come crashing to the floor.

Now I'm not exactly sure what sort of bodily harm an all-glass fixture weighing 5 pounds, suspended 5 five above me and quite hot (after hours of use) would have done to my head (had I been three inches more to the left when it fell), but I can't imagine it would have been pretty.

The closeness of this call, reminded me that when it's your time to get bashed you get bashed, and when it's not, you don't. It also reminded me of a midrash (a commentary to the Bible based on exegesis, parable, and/or legend) that's told about the story of Jonah and the whale, which comes from the book of Prophets and is read every Yom Kippur. (Those unfamiliar with the events, can read more about Jonah's story here, but the basic gist is that Jonah is running away from God and in the midst of his fleeing, gets swallowed by a large fish – which, by the way, was so borrowed from us by "Pinocchio" and "Finding Nemo".)

The midrash states that "the fish had been prepared to swallow Jonah since the six days of creation." Now not all midrashim are meant to be taken literally, and for the record, I (as well as many other Orthodox Jews) don't believe that the "six days of creation" were literal twenty-four hour days. But what this midrash is trying to teach us is that from the beginning of the world, this fish, or perhaps it's great-great-grandmother, was set in motion so that it would be in the exact right place at the exact right time that Jonah was thrown into the water.

This shows us is that reality is not just a bunch of random, haphazard events thrown together, but rather a finely orchestrated system of interactions and happenings that harmoniously integrate every aspect of the universe. In the midst of this financial crisis, which seems to be producing more bad news every day, I think many of us are feeling that our sense of comfort and stability is free-falling with the market itself, with no end in sight (nausea included).

But Judaism teaches us that there is a plan for everything. It doesn't mean that the plan always feels good, but just remembering that a plan exists can give us all some much needed comfort. Like I mentioned in my last post, we must tap into the power of repentance, prayer, and charity, as those are the spiritual tools we have in our arsenal to combat such turmoil, but at the same time, we also have to trust that everything that happens or might happen in the future is for a greater purpose, even if we can't always understand it. 

And in the meantime, since the economic forecast seems like it will be bleak for a while, we have to do our best to appreciate how many falling objects, projectiles, and other bad things actually do miss us on a regular basis and spare us from life's unpleasantries. (You know, little things like death and various other forms of bodily harm.)



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