Sunday, October 19, 2008

Absent Blessings in the Synagogue

This morning, a small group of Jews slowly made their way toward the center of the synagogue as the torah portion was read.

Each moved with joy and anticipation. Though the others who moved with them were competitors, they nevertheless felt a spirit kinship. They were coming to receive the gifts of heaven. Some would get more than others, but all would get something. It would be sweet.

As the bar-mitzvah boy wrapped up, and the final kaddish intoned, the small group fell silent. The last words were uttered. The time had come for blessings to be bestowed on them from up high.

The synagogue broke into song, the traditional melody for the bar-mitzvah boy. Now.

Dozens of small head raised to the sky in eager anticipation. The eyes began darting back and forth. Right now it will be begin, now. The eyes searched the heavens, hands outstretched, hearts lifted in prayer. Now.

But ...

As the song went on, second after awful second, happiness began to vanish into confusion. The darting eyes swept more furiously across the heavens. Where was the sweet mana they were waiting for? Where were their paper-wrapped blessings?

The truth began to dawn. The eyes, so recently filled with joy and promise began to fall like so many autumn leaves from the dying branches. The sparkles were replaced with disillusionment. Why? Why did it not come, I heard one ask his father.

I don't know, was the only answer he had for consolation. And I thought of all the Jews, so like these little boys and girls, waiting for their eternal salvation from heaven. And I was moved. And so it was, on the morning of the bar-mitzvah of the boy whose family didn't believe in throwing candies after the torah reading.

The Sfas Emes

I heard a nice Sfas Emes tonight, which I will butcher right and proper.

Many of us have homes. We identify who we are with the trappings of what is around us: our jobs, our hobbies, our houses, our cars, and so on.

For those who are searching and traveling, for those who have no home - who don't see themselves as identified with a job, a hobby, a house, a particular sect or community - God provides them a home.

This is the lesson of Sukkot.

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