23 September 2011

Rosh Hashanah, 5772

I received today a New Years greeting from the Rabbi whom I knew more than fifty years ago. He had officiated at my Bar Mitzvah, a participation that I think is not the same as officiating at my wedding when his involvement would actually change my status in the public world, but his presence there raises our connection above the mundane. I mean, to become bar mitzvah is to accept the obligations of an adult as a member of the Jewish community and be responsible for caring for the widow, the orphan and the stranger in our midst. These days there are too many of them. For quite some time I have understood my Judaism as an ethical attachment to the world, and I engage daily with that stance in the world. I suppose if nothing less, then the Rabbi represents some butterfly’s wing moving the air I have breathed.
     When my daughter was in Israel in the Spring of 2010 I visited with he and his wife: they had retired and lived now in Jerusalem. It was a lovely visit with my past. The Rabbi and his wife had discovered a pizza restaurant within walking distance of their home (they refused to drive in that city where the drivers were ‘crazy’) that approximated the fare at any number of New York City establishments, and I suppose the regular repast served as some link to a long life as a pulpit Rabbi in the environs. I did not ask but I imagine he was eighty years old or more: he had lost considerable weight since I knew him and though his beard was grey his face appeared as I imagined it would look when I had made the date to meet. Our conversation concerned mostly the present; he expressed disappointment that I had not brought my children along to the meeting. Perhaps meeting them would have closed some circle for him, but I think it was more my past I was interested in opening there.
     I have learned now in a number of various contexts that there is interest and value to return over long spans of time and great distances of space to relationships once experienced. I think in such voyage I forge links from then to here and from here to then: like the latent content of the dream, the emotions that stir in the event offer me some clue to my presence in that past. These emotions transcend the actual physical occasion and offer a clue to the nature of the life I lived then and give some perspective on the life now lived. I learn a few things.
     I enjoyed tremendously the visit with my Rabbi, because that is how I experienced him at our lunch. And I enjoyed the pizza in Jerusalem.
     It is another new year—5772—I am glad to receive word from 5721.


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