The building is alive.
We had that realization yesterday when our plumber returned to face another in a series of clogged pipe and aged-out waterways--this one in the back of the Temple House, which in the last several rainstorms had developed into a nasty swamp of rancid water, filth and roof renovation debris. The contractor who had replaced the roof came back last week in order to clear the alley of any last items and through the valorous bravery of some of our maintenance men, we were able to clear a pathway to the drains.
The result after today's visit was a seething mass of muck that had the plumber running from the alley to the street, waiting wisely for it recede and then watching, miraculously, as it melted away, washed back down the drain with a simple hose.
It was part comedy, part drama--perhaps Cecil B. DeMille meets John Landis. It was then that we realized: the building is alive. It's speaking to us. Literally moving its bowels.
I know this sounds graphic but I have come to realize that in a community, all aspects of its manifest reality have a life of their own. There's the way one is greeted by walking through the doors; the paper and the graphic presentation of who we are as an institution; the manner of discourse; the light that pours into the windows; that state of the glass that filters that light; the bricks and mortar that house our holy aspirations; and yes, the pipes which deliver our water and waste to and fro.
There is a morning blessing in the Siddur in which we thank God for removing waste from our bodies:
"Praised are you, Eternal our God, Ruler of the universe, who with wisdom fashioned the human body, creating openings, arteries, glands and organs, marvelous in structure, intricate in design. Should but one of them, by being blocked or opened, fail to function, it would be impossible to exist. Praised are you Eternal, healer of all flesh who sustains our bodies in wondrous ways." (Siddur Sim Shalom)