19. All this rain. "The heavens recount God's glory." Well, that's true enough. At precisely the time we add to our daily prayers the request for wind and rain, we get it. It's fortuitous when religion works that way. Nice to go a day without a major theological crisis. Unless of course the crisis is getting what you want. What would you do if you got what you actually wanted? Would you know it? Appreciate it? It's a question worth asking. Nature it seems knows its order; we humans, part nature and part beings conscious of exercising the hubris of understanding themselves to be above or beyond it, do not always so easily appreciate things for as they are. Or are conscious of their own suffering when subjected to natures winds and rains or lack thereof.
I went to a 6.45 am meeting this morning with several community leaders and New York City's new Deputy Mayor of Operations, Steven Goldsmith. He and his staff--a bright, energetic helpful team--wanted to hear from us over breakfast what it was that we felt the city was doing well and where we needed improvement. No Hobbesian morning, this; rather, a democratic exercise in reflective leadership, constituent relations, and what the Deputy Mayor termed the "co-production" of services. A partnership. It was incredibly refreshing to hear. Mr. Goldsmith's questions were direct; his thought process analytic; and he exuded intelligence and humor, both good signs for wrapping one's mind around America's largest and most complicated city.
Sometimes people see government as great, distant, and unresponsive--just like certain perceptions of God. And early this morning I experienced a government that listened, that cares, and that considers the citizens to be its partners in making the city a better, more habitable place. Not just the heavens recounting the glories of what democracies ought to be but the earth, and its inhabitants thereof.
20. "Hashem answers you in your time of trouble." Someone recently fell and hurt themselves at services. They were immediately cared for by concerned congregants; security and staff dispatched for the EMS, who arrived quickly and tended to and cared for the patient until he could get the care he needed. A friend said, "This is the second time this happened here. I'm beginning to think something's cursed here."
Or blessed, I offered. Without the blessing of care and concern; without the blessing of security and EMS; without the blessing of a responsive community, you may have never experienced such a reaction. You know the story: the man in the sinking boat. Another boat comes; a helicopter; but he waits for God. He dies and goes to heaven where he blames God for not saving him. "But I sent an helicopter, a boat..."
"Some put their trust in chariots; others horses; but we put our trust in the name of the Eternal our God." We forget sometimes that the material is merely a manifestation of a greater divine reality. See above: The heavens recount God's glory--sometimes made perceivable through the agency of nature and the material accumulation of molecular structures that is an ambulance, a chair, an outstretched hand. An omnipresent God is, by definition, always present.
21. The triumph of one of God's chosen ones. This has everything, but most significantly, triumph and exaltation over an enemy. As such, the elevation of the leader to a victorious and heightened status is one of the psalms' most complete celebrations. Before George died, he called and asked if I'd come to Madison to help plan his funeral. A refugee from Hitler, one of the world's great historians, a remarkably warm and generous human being, he more than any other person I ever knew, represented the idea of "triumph." He had one requirement for the funeral service: I couldn't mention God. "That's only a problem," I said, "because you're God!"
Honor, majesty, blessing, mercy and joy; each expressions of his life and each bestowed, as it were, by an understanding of and a relationship to a greater reality beyond his control which he learned to harness, under his control, for a good greater than himself. "Be thou exalted, George, in thy strength! So will we sing and praise your power!"