Home » Blog » Omer Day 26: Hod sh’be’Netzach – The Humility of Endurance

Omer Day 26: Hod sh’be’Netzach – The Humility of Endurance

No one told me that much of my rabbinical school life would be spent in my car.

No one told me that much of my rabbinical school life would be spent in my car.

Like many rabbinical students living in West Philadelphia, it often takes me upward of forty-five minutes to make the morning commute to Wyncote for classes at RRC. My trusty “Toyota Pious” (as I like to refer to it) is nimble and fuel efficient, and I am glad that I am able to give rides when people need. Yet even with all these gifts and luxuries, my morning commute nevertheless requires safe driving, a bit of faith, and much endurance. My personal Tefillat Ha-derekh (prayer for the journey) is a daily a prayer for the endurance to get closer and closer, one mile at a time, until I reach RRC and my classes safely.

While I have been blessed with safe arrivals, I have seldom blessed my classmates with the serenest disposition during the first minutes of class. I find that my prayer for endurance is answered with precision: I endure through the throttling gridlock until my commute ends and the day begins. An explanation to my classmates of my few minutes’ lateness can verge in scope into Homeric verse: “Sing, O Muse, of the rage of Zack Wiener, of the cone blocking Lincoln Drive, the closed Schuylkill ramp!” While there may be little harm to these stories of my own endurance, there is surely a hazard in their telling: my car, my commute, my needs, and, in turn, my ego all take center stage. Untempered endurance can encourage us to put our destination first, blinding us to the valuable journeys of others who travel beside us. In quieter moments, my heart returns to the vulnerable immigrant father who knocked over the cone on Lincoln Drive and cannot produce a license, or the cyclist struck by a right-turning car because there’s not yet a bike lane. In my quieter, less hurried moments, my heart remembers that any safe arrival of mine is a blessing no matter how late I am.

The humility of endurance is the realization that whether on Schuylkill Expressway or any career path, separate destinations nonetheless tangle all of our routes together. As a Philadelphia driver and as a rabbinical student equally, I am safer, calmer, and more able to endure when I travel humbly and kindly with others. No matter where I am going, it is my destination, but not my path alone. Finding the humility in endurance helps me leave more time, offer more patience, and convey more serenity to others on the road. My endurance sees me along the way, but my humility helps me share the road graciously.

In some Jewish communities, it is customary to bless the traveler with the words: “Tzetkhem l’shalom u’voakhem b’shalom!” Go with peace and arrive in peace. If life is a journey, then netzach is the Divine endurance that keeps us sustained in motion. If life is a journey, then hod is the Divine humility that helps us realize that everything in the world moves, is moved, and can move us. On this day of hod sh’be’netzach, my blessing extends to our spaces between the departure and the arrival. I hope that we have the endurance to sit patiently on the jammed highway, but also the humility to sit graciously in the company of others on the road.

Ruakh Hai Ve’kayam, Living, Enlivening Spirit: move us peacefully through our lives, and inspire us to move together, to move each other, with sweetness.

Zachary Wiener is a second-year student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. When he sits down, he cherishes studying Talmud and Jewish mysticism. When he stands up, he cherishes being a chaplain intern at Lankenau Medical Center. When he lays down to rest, he dreams in Yiddish about his coal-mining forefathers in Schuylkill County, PA. On one foot: he loves “overthinking it.”

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