Raina and I spent a few days up in the Finger Lakes earlier this week. We hiked, did some wine tasting and ate some good food. The last night we were there we were scheduled to do a sunset cruise and local beer tasting on the True Love, a gorgeous 60’ schooner. When we got to the dock the weather was “iffy.” After a brief delay we headed out. The water was calm and there was minimal wind. Despite the lack of wind the crew raised the sails. They fluttered gently and, while they weren’t making a material difference, they looked pretty.
Suddenly, things changed. The storm we had been watching on radar had turned and was coming in quickly. The water became rough and the wind picked up. Suddenly, the sails were no longer decorative. They caught the wind and we began to pick up speed. The wind picked up further and lifted one side of the boat up and out of the water. I loved the feeling as the boat heeled but Raina, and some of the other guests, weren’t enjoying the ride.
Then, as we watched, the crew began moving quickly. It was as if they were performing a well-rehearsed dance. As they shouted instructions to one another the captain announced that we were dropping and securing the sails and then heading back in. Each crew member knew their role and I was fascinated by the choreography of their movements. Within a few minutes the sails were down and secured and we were headed back to the dock.
As I reflected on those last minutes on the True Love I was struck by just how quickly and unexpectedly the weather had changed. And I was reminded that life, like the weather, can be unpredictable. As the Yiddish expression puts it, “Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht — People plan, God laughs.”
And the question isn’t whether or not things change. After all, change is the only constant in life. The real question is how we respond when it does. Do we stubbornly hold on to our old expectations? Or do we change our plan, drop the sails and set a new course? In the end, the latter approach is the one that ultimately gets us back to the shore. But that can only happen if, like the crew on the boat, we know who we are and where we ultimately want to go.
Rabbi Daniel Cohen