Traveling Through These Days of Awe

Rick Chess photoI’m in a plane ascending to 37,000 feet.

How restless have I been this year? How easily distractible?

Already on this flight, from the time of boarding the plane until now, I’ve jumped from e-mail to Facebook to FiveThirtyEight to Jane Hirshfield on Basho to Mishkan Hanefesh, Sanctuary of the Soul, the Reform movement’s new high holiday prayer book. Already I’ve skipped from skimming to sinking to expanding to avoiding: I don’t want to look at that e-mail right now. It can wait.

We boarded at around 4 p.m. and maybe it’s around 4:50 p.m. now, and in that brief span of time I’ve registered for a free online course on The Science of Meditation, knowing full well that next week, when the webinar is live, I will have no time to participate but I must participate because I just offered to teach on my own “The Art and Science of Meditation,” a course that I’ve taught with three other colleagues, including a neuroscientist, for the past two spring semesters, and I am going to need all the help I can get with the science part of the course this spring. [Read more…]

Torah Revealed and Withheld: Part Two

(Continued from yesterday.)

I’m not ready to leap from my son to your son, God.

But am I ready to relax my grip on any other parts of the self that define me?

You have not withheld, have not withheld, withheld . . .

You say Greater Israel, Judea, Samaria, and as you speak, even while you are still speaking, before your last sentence is finished, I’m composing, revising, rehearsing my response to you while my chest tightens, my muscles constrict, my breath speeds up. Am I still listening?

Do I have the strength if not courage, courage if not wisdom to wait, wait for my scripted response (demographics, human rights, competing narratives), playing internally, to run all the way to its emphatic conclusion—marked by an irrefutable exclamation point!—before I respond to you? [Read more…]

Torah Revealed and Withheld: Part One

Now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son. Genesis 22:12

Because you have done this and have not withheld your son. Genesis 22:16

I wouldn’t have done it. Wouldn’t do it. It’s not in my nature.

What’s not? Generosity.

There it is. I said it. If you want to stop reading now, fine. Why should I expect you to read further, given that reading is an act of generosity giving attention to someone else’s sentences. If I, the writer, am not generous, how can I expect you to be? [Read more…]