Empowered by Our Power Outage.
Living five days with no power.
Power. We flick a switch, turn up the heat, connect to wi-fi and cook dinner. Rarely do we think of the wonder and amazement of our modern-day life – until the power goes down, the lights go out and all is dark.
I recently experienced a power cut for five whole days during Philadelphia’s powerful Nor’easter. Once I moved past the initial feelings of frustration and chill, I garnered a few insights.
1. We are beyond fortunate.
Those of us that live in developed countries are incredibly blessed. Our air is always the perfect temperature, our lights are the exact brightness we desire. Our laundry spins when we click a button and our food is cooked effortlessly in culinary magic boxes. During the blackout I thought regularly of the millions of people who suffer painfully through cold winters in tents or less as a result of wars and famine. I thought about those sad individuals who sleep rough just 10 or so miles from my home in the City Center while I reside in my relative suburban castle.
And I thought about Mr. Ernie Gross, an Auschwitz survivor who recently spoke to a group of students about the painful, fear-filled nights in the bunks, where blankets were scarce, hunger enraged and cold engulfed the body and soul. I counted my blessings that not only did we have blankets and sweaters galore, but that we live in a free and modern country where we don’t have to concern ourselves with basic life survival.
2. We are part of an incredible nation.
Despite our challenges, arguments and fractious camps, the Jewish people are essentially one nation that looks out for each other, especially in times of need. We were overwhelmed with chesed calls – for food, sleeping spaces and laundry assistance. The spirit of Abraham resides among all of us, that desire to step out beyond our boundary and love and care for others, even when we have all our own personal pain and struggle.
3. The power of disconnecting.
Sometimes it’s good to abstain and disconnect. We won’t miss many of the pleasures electricity provides as much as we expect. If our wi-fi is down and internet access is spotty, it’s a great moment to grab a flashlight and open a book, read the Torah portion of the week or spend some time meditating how we can improve as a person.
Shabbat is our built-in system of stepping back from the physical world. Although we leave our heat and lights on to our desired requirement, we do not engage in new creative labor. My favorite time of the week is just before Shabbat begins and I detach from my phone. I can catch my breath and refocus on my connection with God. Our five days without power gave me a little extra opportunity to do that. Let’s enjoy the gift of Shabbat every week by celebrating the opportunity to focus our minds a little more on spirituality and connecting to God.
4. The true energy source.
Power-off felt like power-less. We progress through our busy lives, trying to maintain a small sense of control, mistakenly believing that we have power to achieve the desired outcome. And then events happen beyond our control and we are helpless. Without electricity, we were completely at the behest of the electric company and some faceless person in an office who we relied on to dispatch a crew.
Our lives are the same regarding God. Ultimately, He gives us the power through the gift of life, and He decides when that power will fade and be extinguished. Just as we are totally dependent on the power company to provide us with a constant source of electricity, so too are we solely reliant upon God to give us our continuous energy supply.
With one small failed cable or flick of a switch, our lives can be turned upside down. Our job is to recognize the source of our blessing. To feel and contemplate who gives us our life energy. When we say a blessing on food or an event, we are not saying thank you. Rather we are recognizing the source of all life. The Hebrew word for blessing - bracha - is related to the word for a natural source of water, ‘braicha’. Our blessings help us remember who our spiritual electric company is.
Let’s power-up and connect to that magnificent electrical spiritual source.