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Monday, June 29, 2015

Writing My Own Midrash*

This time...this time, I’m writing my own midrash. I’m speaking in my own voice. I’m not reading all the words, listening to all the voices, learning all the opinions of those who have come before me before I can speak in my own voice, before I can share my own words and ideas, before I have the authority to speak with my own mind and from my own experience. I’m not wading through 2,000 years of everyone else’s ideas before I can have just one of my own.

This time...this time, I’m writing my own midrash. I’m not checking with my rabbi, with my teacher, with an expert, with a book or a blog or an article, with the Mishna, the Gemara, the Siddur, the Shulchan Aruch, the Tanya, or the Zohar, or with Rashi or Rambam or Ramban or Ibn Ezra or Rav Moshe Feinstein, or every single other person who’s ever had anything to say before I have something to say myself.

This time...this time, I’m writing my own midrash. I’m wading into the text, getting my feet wet, and then diving into its depths, and swimming in its murky waters, letting it reveal its truths and contradictions and secrets and messages directly to me, without anyone else’s thoughts or words or needs interfering. I am splashing around and playing Marco-Polo with it, searching and finding by the sound of my own voice.

This time...this time, I'm writing my own midrash. I’m stepping into the mystical union with the meaning both hidden and revealed in sacred scripture, and I'm not asking for permission. Not this time. I’m not asking if it’s ok to explore the magical and the supernatural. I’m not asking if it’s ok to turn the text inside out and upside down. I’m not asking if it’s ok to see the energetic thread that spins out of the Divine and weaves itself through space and time and meaning, creating a tapestry of possibilities and potentialities. I’m not asking if it’s ok to see this tapestry not just through their eyes, but through my own.

This time...this time, I’m writing my own midrash. I’m stepping right into the text, into the narrative, and letting G*d speak directly to me.

This time...this time, I’m Abraham, trembling with the knife in my hand as I go to sacrifice Isaac. I’m Moses, watching G*d inscribe the tablets and listening as He instructs me at Sinai. I’m Rachel and Leah negotiating over who gets to sleep with Jacob. I’m the angels visiting Abraham and Sarah, seeing a new future unfold for them. I’m Joseph in the well. I’m the snake, convincing Eve to taste the fruit. I’m Pharaoh, hardening my heart. I’m Noah, silently building an ark. I’m Betzalel, crafting the Mishkan. I’m Aaron, spending all my days atoning for our sins. I’m David, consumed by lust. I’m Hannah, begging G*d to give me a child. I’m Mordechai, whispering in the ear of Esther, and I am Esther, finding my strength as a woman and a Jew.

This time...this time, I’m writing and reading and creating and living my own midrash, my own understanding, my own way in to the narrative that defines the existence of a people that I call my own, and who also claim me as one of theirs.

This time...this time, I’m not just reading the story. This time, I’m writing it.

* Midrash is a form of rabbinic literature exploring the meaning and depths of Jewish texts through stories, which are sometimes fanciful and folkloric and even outrageous.

Monday, June 8, 2015

When Did THAT Happen?!?

I'm serving as tour guide for family who are visiting me in Israel. I'm so delighted to have them here, and to share my world with them. Not just the touristy stuff, but the real heart and soul I've connected with in this Holy Land. And what I've noticed in sharing the Israeli narrative, is just how much I've internalized an Israeli story - how much the story of Israel has also become my story.

When did THAT happen? Was it last summer when I first got here and just felt a kind of at-homeness with myself that was very new? Or when I went to Europe to explore the story of the Holocaust and then returned back here, feeling and tasting and seeing the river of blood and tears that brought us to this land? Or when the war started, and I had no thought to leave? Or when I was supposed to begin rabbinical school in Los Angeles, but couldn't leave Jerusalem?

Or when I learned more and more about the complexity of the issues and life in Israel, and understood that there are no easy answers, but that the peace and prosperity of one peoples can never be at the expense of another? Or when I understood that I don't stand on one side or another here - I stand in the middle with all the struggles and joys that life here offers?

I don't really know when that happened, but I've seen it in myself with greater clarity as I share the Israel I love with the people I love. I want them to see and understand and experience it as I have. I want them to feel the same thing I do. That may not happen, but I didn't know how much I wanted it to until they arrived. I want them to know that life here, with all the politics and complexity, is rooted in a story thousands of years old, and it's THEIR story, OUR story, and we're still writing and telling that story, each of us.