Hard-Gained Wisdom, Laughter and Song
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor
This is the problem with believing, as Rabbi Arthur Green puts it so
exquisitely in his new 'Radical Theology': "... We religious types
personify Being [describe Being using words like 'God'] because we see
ourselves as living in relationship to the underlying One. (p.19)"
When overwhelmed by almost any association in almost any moment, a
religious soul (and I believe this word is essential, not to be easily
replaced by 'spiritual') struggles for any word to express what is
happening deep inside, to communicate what it is to be right now. No
word works - it is like trying to translate crying or attempting to
explain pain. Or like trying to speak to/of God.
What moments I experienced today. What a thrill it is to witness
pervasive Jewish joy! And instead of apologizing for feeling pride in
my particular, I wish to shout it out, to name it, to cherish and
publicize its miraculousness. Its rarity in today's world.
Here at Camp Ramah in Ojai, CA, I saw Jewish counselors schlep luggage
for their campers up a hill. The images that came to my mind were not
pleasant - Jewish luggage being hauled in another time, a horrifying
place. I could pretend that nightmares didn't return, or I can own
that too. The darkness in our particular story lives in the recesses
of every attuned Jewish psyche, and rush forward unbidden when certain
sensory experiences (smell, sight, sound) happen. We are suddenly
adrift in time. Jewish baggage, perhaps.
But I was yanked out of my panic by a very simple thing. The tag on
the luggage was very familiar. It had my own address on it, as it was
my child's camp bags. And here she was, full with nervous
anticipation not for the images from the past that haunt/haunted me,
but the impending celebration of a Jewish summer camp with memories
that hadn't happened yet. This was/is Jewish baggage that hasn't yet
been packed. The singing and cheering as Jewish children convened on
a sunny field filled me beyond capacity.
How else, in this rapturous realization, can my soul experience this
except to pray? To pray for our People's very Being? I pray for God
to Be with us in every song, every ounce of friendship, for my child's
happiness, for life itself.
Given my immediate experience, I think Rabbi Green is pointing to
something profoundly important. It is not a distant God, not a
transcendent 'Other' to 'Whom' I pray - it is to the very Source of it
all which is, as Green writes "is so fully present in the here and now
of each moment that we could not possibly grasp the depth of that
presence. (p. 18)"
We can grasp fearful images, we can detail the past - but there is no
containing joy, no ability to predict wonder. God contains the past
eternally, and will hold whichever of the infinite possible outcomes
that corresponds to the next choice we make, as my beloved friend
Rabbi Dr. Bradley Shavit Artson teaches. Both we and God are
wondering what happens next.
May the One who permeates the universe itself be within each of us as
we open ourselves to the future, building it through hard-gained
wisdom, and taking every opportunity to laugh and sing.
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