Friday, September 11, 2015

BEHOLD, WHERE ARE YOU, HERE I AM: A Rosh Hashanah Invocation

© 2015 Trisha Arlin


In the Talmud, Rebbe Hannina says, 
Human versions of God’s vast intent are as unripened fruit,
Filled with potential,
Perceived completely only by God.
Hanina says that the unripened fruit of prophecy is a dream.
Which is kind of cool.
So I speculate,
The unripened fruit of truth is the story.
While we sleep our brains show us random pictures of what we had seen that day or what we can imagine, based on what our brains already knew even if we didn’t know we knew them.
And our brain imposes order on the random and constructs a story. 
Thus we gain access to the things we know but don’t know we know,
And we call that a dream.
Chalom is the Hebrew word for dream, which sounds like chalon, which is the word for window.
So a dream can be prophecy or neurology or a window to one’s soul.
And the story is how we make sense of it.

Hinei, Behold.


The story began in the Garden of Eden

With Adam and Eve, newborn and without shame.

Until one day the snake appears and asks the first question in the entire Torah,

Casting doubt on assumed truth,

A reptile after my own heart.

Did God really say, the snake asked, to you and Adam that you were not to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge?

Huh, says Eve, and she eats that apple

And it is good.

Adam eats, too and suddenly, bam!  

Doubt and questions and fear and helplessness and despair and shame, and self-awareness. 

It is scary and they hide away.

Then God asks the first question God ever asks in the whole entire Torah,

Ayeka, God asks.  Where are you?  

They don’t answer. 

Where are you?

But poor Adam and Eve, it's before rituals, there’s no prayers, there’s no cantor singing and rabbi preaching.

Where are you?  God asks, and they haven’t a clue so they don’t say a thing.  They don’t have an  answer.

Do you? 

Ayeka. Where are you?


So here today, we answer God’s question.  

Not Hinei, behold, but Hineni,  Here I am.

Hineni, said Abraham as he prepared to kill his son;

Hineni, said Moses at the burning bush as he prepared to free a people;

Hineni, sings the cantor, as she walks to the bima and prepares us for the Days of Awe.

It’s Rosh Hashanah and where are you? 

The place we stand is holy ground.

We listen for the presence of God in the cantor’s prayers and the rabbi's sermon

And the ancient rituals of the High Holydays,

Trying to hear truth amongst all the voices of our lives

Trying to interpret the noise properly so that redemption will come to us, if it should, 

And we can be part of the truth a much larger story.

Hineni.  Here I am

We dream together
And we make Teshuvah, when we return to our true selves and forgive and are forgiven;

We dream together
And we say Tefillah, when we pray and stop time in holy conversation;

We dream together 
And we do Tzedakah, when we transcend self by taking responsibility for our beautiful world. 

We dream together 
Because as Grace Paley once said, 
“Without action, hope is wasted.”

Behold Blessed One-ness, Infinite and eternal,
Here we are.

Where are you?


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Forgive You?

You say to me, 
"If I have hurt you in any way this past year, I apologize and hope that you can pardon me, forgive me, let me atone for my sins against you."
If?  If you have hurt me?
Of course you have hurt me!  
Remember that time in the car, in the living room, on the road, in the back yard, on the stoop?
In that email, on the phone, to my parents, with my friends, next to my spouse, in front of my kids, when we were alone?
Overtly, covertly, passive-aggressively, inadvertantly, officially, slowly, abruptly, shockingly, repeatedly, mistakenly, knowingly?
Oh my God yes, you have hurt me!
"I know," you say, "I know.
Pardon me, forgive me, let me atone for my sins against you."
Forgive you?  Should I forgive you? when should I forgive you?
Immediately, before you even know what you did?
Now, as soon as you ask for forgiveness?
Eventually, but only after making you feel bad for years?
What about never?

How should I forgive you?
Miraculously, without you having to ask?
Simply, by just saying, apology accepted?
Grudgingly, and only after you've groveled for a really long time?
Or what about, not at all?

Why should I forgive you?
Because you are really truly sorry and you will never do it again?
Becasue it cleanses us both and helps me move on?
Because it's Elul and the Rabbi says I have to?
Because nothing, screw this, you're evil and I hate you.
"Yes," you say,  "you're right.
All true.
Pardon me, forgive me, let me atone for my sins against you."

Forgive you?
I imagine saying, No.
Forgive you?
I imagine saying, Maybe.
Forgive you?
I imagine saying, Yes.