There are a number of different negative responses one can choose to deal with the realization that the world often seems to be falling apart: panic, despair, complacency, etc. When it looks like many things are unstable and unsafe, I often find myself hanging onto whatever seems to be stable. When I attach my own sense of well-being to things that may seem to be stable but turn out not to be, I get disappointed and discouraged. The truth is that I will not find true calmness in the midst of chaos except in the promises of God. We only get glimpses of God’s truth in this life because we are sandwiched between a past we have largely forgotten (gan eden), and a future that seems all too far away (olam haba).
The Haftarah for parashat Ki Tetze contains a verse that is both frightening and reassuring:
"For the mountains shall depart and the hills totter, but my kindness shall not depart from you, neither shall the covenant of my peace totter," says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
There is no question whether or not the mountains and hills will become unstable…they will. God’s kindness and covenant is not necessarily demonstrated by a stable economy, relief from natural disasters, and/or a healthy government. God’s compassion is demonstrated even in the midst of those crumbling “mountains.” We may not be spared our biggest fears, but we may learn to discover that even if they come true, it’s all going to be okay.
Calmness is a middah that comes into play each and every day in the little things and the big things. A low-grade nagging feeling that things are not well impacts the little choices that we make on a regular basis. To cultivate the middah of calmness it is important to tackle one’s overall sense of stability. Can you be calm when it all seems to fall apart? If so, it might end up being a little easier to be calm when your loved one snaps at you. As mountains disappear and hills tumble around us, may we choose to live in God’s covenant of peace and have calmness as a guiding light for the work Yeshua would have for us.