03 October 2010

150 (22-24)

22.  At the mere mention of David mentioning "ayelet ha-shachar" (which one translator describes as the "hind of the morning"{yikes}) I am immediately reminded of a great experience I once had in Jerusalem in 1985.  I had gone to Jerusalem to study at Hebrew University and also wanted to supplement my learning with a private rabbinic tutorial.  I went to HUC (which would eventually be my rabbinical school some four years later) in search of a mentor.  I was rebuffed.  Shown the "hind of the morning" as it were.  Drop in mentoring just wasn't something established institutions were into at the time and just because I has read "As a Driven Leaf" as an impassioned college student, why should they stand at the ready for me?  Feeling forlorn and far away from Madison, which was all about the personal guidance, I waited at the bus stop in the Center City for #4 to take me up to Mt. Scopus.  "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"  Just then I looked up from my book and saw a friend from Madison who had moved to Israel to live with her boyfriend on a kibbutz called, of all things,  Ayelet Ha Shachar.  I told her of my as yet fulfilled pursuit of Torah in the holy city and she gave me the name of a rabbi.  One drop of a coin into the slot and I had an appointment and for a whole year studied weekly with this teacher until at the end of an extraordinary year he placed his hands on my shoulders and said, "Now, go be a rabbi."

The Institution didn't have time; but a friend found a rabbi who did.  Our institutions are only seated upon the hopes and prayers of those who seek them.  "Yet Thou art holy, O Thou that art enthroned upon the praises of Israel."  The idea that God's throne is upheld by the prayers of Israel is a powerful one.  It's quite democratic if you think about it.

Twenty five years later and I now run a synagogue in Brooklyn and this weekend my daughter was called to the Torah herself as Bat Mitzvah.  She read more beautifully than I could ever hope and has plans to read Torah here in Brooklyn, at camp next summer, whoever will have her.  "A seed shall serve Him, it shall be told of the Eternal unto the next generation."  Sometimes, everything works out in the end.

23.  The Lord is my shepherd.  No, seriously.  He is.  And look, I'd rather be a lost sheep (or even a dog) than the cockroach I imagine myself to be in my worst moments.  Our internal feelings are complicated, deeply so.  So when I read David's opening lines here, I am enormously comforted.  Even shepherded.   Which is always preferable to being exterminated like a bug.  Kafka and the 3 Stooges notwithstanding.

Green pastures.  Still waters.  A soul having been restored.  Who fears death under such circumstances?  A rod and staff, moving us all along.  As comfort.  This is the discipline-factor.  Liberal Jews bristle at this idea.  Obligation, mitzvah.  What one ought to do.  Here David is plain-spoken--the rod and staff indicate that all of our choices are not *free choices* per se but decisions we make as much because we've been prodded to make them by a moral and ethical structure that though we may be tempted to stray from it, ultimately gives us the pleasure of being moved in the right direction, to a place of cool repose.

The keen reward.  Goodness and mercy follow you; even pursue you.  Can you imagine?  Goodness and mercy running after you all the days of your life!  The length of your days a dwelling in Forever. 

24.  The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof.  No one says thereof anymore but they should.  It has the grand sweep of euphoria, an expansive enthusiasm for the infinite greatness of it all and so I say, the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof!  All that!

Today I went into the Brooklyn Botanic Garden to get some plants for the winter.  A new ficus elastica, a haworthia, a sansevieria, an an orange pepper plant.  I wanted to get a lemon tree for the living room but they didn't have any.  Tom McClendon explains in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's helpful publication, "Landscaping Indoors," that the Romans may have been the first to domesticate citrus trees indoors.  King Louis XIV apparently built the first orangerie.  And in the 18th century, the British built glass houses just to grow citrus.  The British said "thereof."  For sure.

Did you know that if you group plants together in the home, it increases ambient humidity, which is good for you?  No one says "ambient humidity" anymore.  Green pastures.  Still waters.  Cool repose.  Last winter was so hard emotionally.  The earth's fullness was not discernible.  It felt more like a cold, wet, miserable wasteland if you ask me.  This year it's all about the preparation, the fortification of life, for life, with life.

Leaving the garden, I realized I forgot my membership parking pass, so I had to fork over an extra three bucks just to leave.  Did I care?  Hardly.  I paid my toll and was allowed to pass.  "Lift up your heads, O ye gates!  Yea, lift them up, ye everlasting doors that the king of glory may come in!"

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