I was reading these words–V’ahavta et Adonai Elohecha–and my thought-stream bifurcated, one mind reading the words while another interpreted them. This latter stream split once more, one thinking literally–You shall love the Lord your God–while the other spun off in metaphorical delight–if God exists in all persons, in all things, to love God means to love his creations–our human family and all the earth.
And it struck me in that one moment, my mind suspended on three interwoven yet competing thoughts, that all these years I have thought of love as a feeling, that all these years I have forgotten love is as much an action as fear.
A few weekends ago was North Carolina Pride–a festival of solidarity, equality, and fun. Lots of fun. N.C. State’s student group marched in the parade, and then we all hung around afterwards in various manners until the day came to a close. It was enjoyable. It was–in one regard–exactly like Pride was last year and the year I went before that, but somehow that sameness makes it special–we don’t have to worry what we’ll find, because we know it already.
Somehow that sameness seems to make it meaningless.
I read this week’s teaching for the first time more than a month ago–and I knew I’d loathe the moment I got to it. When the week opened at a conference in DC and continued with a maddening rush to pack my room and move on campus, procrastination came easily.
But as Hillel might remind us, “If not know, when?”
So anxiously I plow forward. One last teaching to end them all.
I recently read David Berlinski’s A Tour of the Calculus, a wildly imaginative and lyrical look at the intuition and origination of one of math’s most recognizable elements. I was delighted as he described the wondrous experience of seeing mathematical functions in everyday life (an experience I’m prone to myself), and I was lulled into a certain sense of dualistic comfort when he uncovered the natural yet unexpected partnership between differentiation and integration, the two processes wholly defining the calculus.
While I read today’s teaching, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Berlinski’s musical prose, of the unambiguous manner in which he related unassuming but intimately connected ideas–which is, as you’ll soon see, precisely the challenge presented today.
I feel frustrated and slightly overwhelmed. Tomorrow I return to Raleigh to start my second semester, and in all honesty, I’m not sure if I’m more anxious or excited. I haven’t accomplished all the goals I wanted to make before going back to campus, but those I haven’t reached I’ve planned to do elsewise. And although today is Saturday and there are only four more lessons in the third book of the Pirkei Avot, I just haven’t felt in sound mind to write about that today (and when I read what it said, I felt it even less).
I need focus. But focus is hard to find in a world full of Facebook.
Lately we’ve been hung up on a few things–most notably, perhaps, my attempt at reconciling tradition with my personal evolution. The “fear” of the Lord. Sharing words of Torah. All this, all that. Et cetera. I hate the idea that I must “reconcile” anything–saying it like that implies there’s some inherent disconnect that needs to be overcome. If this is what my faith has become, can it still be called faith?
Matters of philosophical importance aside, this week’s teaching sent me straight to the footnotes.
Some themes get exhausted quickly. The Kardashians, vampires that sparkle, mocking-anythings. Other themes persists for ages. Beliefs in God–or gods–light versus darkness, Tolkien and Harry Potter. Other themes are fresh at first but as time goes on, we tire of them. We want something new. Something novel. Something we haven’t seen or read a dozen times before.
Last week we got lucky: The teaching was short. About as short as this week’s teaching is long. I read it last night, hoping to get a head start on my commentary, to let the ideas stew and steep as I sleep and I wake, to prepare for this moment, but instead I came to nothing. Only a title–a title that doesn’t even seem to fit.
This morning was the second “Shababa” at the religious school where I teach. It’s a new experiment this year, having “Shabbat school” one weekend every month or so instead of having school on Sunday. So far I’ve enjoyed them; they’re different, but unique and a pleasant experience for teachers and students alike.
Today I had the honor of giving the d’var Torah, which in Hebrew means “words on the Torah.” It’s comparable to a sermon, except it’s not preaching, it’s teaching. See, Jews don’t proselytize–we perseverate. And with all our perseverative studying, it’s only natural to share it with others (since studying the Torah is itself a commandment).
In any case, though short and sweet and written with a younger audience in mind, I thought I may as well share the drash here for anyone who may wish to read it.