Real Enough For Now
Everything I know about life I learned at kiddush. That may just be the title of a book I write some day. Shabbos morning at a kiddush someone spoke and shared something he thinks about every time the new moon is blessed on the Shabbos before Rosh Chodesh. His grandmother recalled that when she was a child and they benched Rosh Chodesh and said the line asking for parnassah, the women would cry, "Oy parnassah, oy parnassah." To me that's powerful.
He went on to discuss what it means to ask for "chayim aruchim." He said that it is mistranslated as long life, but it really really means a healthy life. He said if it was a hard sound,"chaim arukim," it would simply mean long life but the soft sound of "aruchim" means healthy. He said that the Birnbaum siddur has the Hebrew as "arukim." He argued that the only long life we should pray for is a long and healthy life. He then said that he was celebrating his sixtieth birthday and was grateful to G-d for the occasion. He was also pleased that he lives a healthy life. When he was a teenager he was put in the hospital and diagnosed with diabetes. His hospital roommate was an older man in poor health who told this fellow that he'd be lucky to live twenty more years. He feels that he made wiser choices than that man had and that the man's warning was based on his own regrets.
Shabbos is when I pick up a lot of Torah ideas that are keepers. Last week a dear friend pointed out the pattern, a chiastic structure, of the latter books of Shmot: Mishkan - Shabbos - Eigel - Eigel - Shabbos - Mishkan. The sin and reconciliation of the Eigel story are surrounded by the holy potential of relating to G-d in a way that sanctifies time and space.
On Thursday I was leaving the classroom after Public Speaking and the history teacher was setting up for her class. She asked me if I knew if the Hebrew name was Hordus or Chordus, the tiny print was hard to read. And then she shared with me a Seforno that she was about to teach her class. Seforno. He says that the second Temple upgrades made by Herod couldn't compare to the firstTemple, or to the Mishkan, because as beautiful as Herod's structure was, gold can't compete with the Shechinah. This reminded me of the saying that the secret ingredient of cholent is Shabbos.
At the moment that I'm writing this paragraph on a GoBus from Massachusets. I took it on Friday from New York and the experience was so pleasant that I kept the return ticket I booked and turned down the offer of a ride home. Coming in the bus was less than half full and it was two seats for every one person. I was totally comfortable for the entire four and a half hour trip through the snow. Though it's early, this is already feeling like a very different ride. Every seat is taken. I didn't know you had to check and get a number. I have the last seat. I'm in front of the bathroom. One skinny man asked me to move up so he could fit into the bathroom. Everyone else seemed to manage as far as my seat is concerned. A few minutes ago a young woman got stuck in the bathroom and made a to do. We were ready to insist the driver pull over when a cool and confident girl talked the panicking girl through wiggling the door and getting it open. Now no-one is locking the door. There's a smell. It's cramped. I'm tired but can't comfortably relax enough to doze...
I once attended a rare reading and question and answer session with Arthur Miller. Someone asked if he had any regrets. He said he regretted that he had back pain. Laughter from the audience (but none from Mr. Miller ensued). It was probably because he gave an answer that was far from what the questioner was seeking. Maybe the laughter was because no-one expected someone so iconic to be complaining about lower back pain. As I sit on the bus with the seat in front of me banging into my knee and waiting for the bathroom door to hit my seat I think of Arthur Miller. My back hurts and so does my neck. And yet, I'm happy to be here and alive.
Now I'm writing from home, no place like it. I'm glad I wrote a long blog-like blog entry. Makes me wax nostalgic for the days of old of blogging. Over Shabbos I met up with an old anonymous blogger who apologized for a comment he wrote on this blog years ago. I also met someone who was best friends with an old blog buddy. And I met someone who was responsible for the match between one of the wisest J-bloggers out there and someone that read about her on his blog. I feel like once this blog was part of something and that something, that community, is gone. And yet my blog will go on.
Here's a poem (or maybe the start of a poem, or the first in a series) that just spilled out of me:
A penny earned may be a penny saved,
Or a lesson onto the heart engraved
Money can be valuable like time
But it can also be a blank slated mime
Don't count on that bird in your hand
You don't know the G-d-bush has planned
You can think whatever they tell you to think
But a chain can be carried by it's strongest link
If to your true self you are not blind
A good man can be easy to find