The chorus of the Door’s hit, Waiting for the Sun, is essentially one word: waiting. I sing that chorus quietly, in my head, whenever I find myself in a line for longer than 5 minutes: at Starbucks, on the phone, at the supermarket. It’s a good mantra, and I highly recommend you learn it.
I’m sure there’s a statistic somewhere that provides what percentage of time we spend waiting: for people, places, and things alike. It’s probably a shockingly large number: at least, it feels that way. Even with my trusty iPhone in hand, waiting around can get irksome. I have so many other things I could be doing! Why am I stuck waiting?
The recent news flash that Boston has the worst rush-hour traffic in America was not a surprise for anyone who has ever found themselves on I-95 between 7-10am or 330-700pm, literally inching along. It can be utterly maddening, hence radios, illegal texting, and the Doors…
Why do I get so anxious and bothered about waiting? Someone once remarked to me when I began to lose it in some line I was standing in at the time, “What else have you got to do?” I suppose sometimes I have an excellent comeback, like, “Are you kidding? I have several appointments!”, or, “I have to make dinner!”, or something like that.
But the truth is that I am not a neurosurgeon, nor am I an EMT or an ER doctor. Life and death does not depend on my presence or absence. I always have stuff to do, but is it worth jacking up my blood pressure? I don’t think so. I will try, in good faith to get to where I need to be, but without killing myself in the process. The older I get, the earlier I leave to make sure I arrive on time to where I need to be, though this causes problems, chief among them being: I have to wait… Hence, the Doors. And earphones and podcasts and music.
Jews know a lot about waiting. We’ve been waiting for the Messiah for two thousand years or so. Sometimes this staying on hold gets to be too much, and there’s an explosion of impatience that provides an opening for someone to claim that they are the Messiah. Over the centuries, hundreds of thousands of Jews – maybe millions – became tired of waiting. Impatient for a change in their lives that would lead them from poverty and persecution to eternal life and salvation, they embraced a messiah.
But it never panned out. From the first century, when Jesus as the messiah failed to ignite more than a small following of Jews, to the 17th century, when Shabbetai Tzvi convinced so many Jews for a short while that he was the Anointed Savior, to current times when there are those who say that the Lubavitch Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who died in 1994, was the messiah and will rise from the dead – we’ve waited.
Most non-Orthodox Jews have let go of the ultimate Messianic dream. A personal messiah, chosen by God to lead the Jewish people to salvation, especially after the Holocaust, seems hopelessly anachronistic. No one is coming to save us. There are no shortcuts or sacred deeds that will lead to a perfect world. There is no end run around mortality. This is life: hard, unknown, dark, scary. We are the doers. We are the ones who create light to banish the darkness. We’re waiting.
It’s not sad or frightening to acknowledge that every self-aware human is waiting for the end. So as we move through space, let’s not hide. Let’s dance and sing and celebrate and love. As Leonard Cohen sang it,
Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Or as Jim Morrison sang it, “Waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting…”