My husband of a quarter century plus and I visited a synagogue yesterday; each one giving the other courage in a situation that could go awkward. My husband is a social scientist, after all, as well as having an insatiable curiosity about unsolved theological and Biblical riddles (what they are I'll leave to your imagination, or better yet, you could show up to the Saturday morning fellowship and find out for yourself).
It was lovely; really, truly lovely. It was a very small synagogue, led by a student Rabbi just once a month. When they aren’t there a member of the congregation leads the service, which was done, partly in Hebrew, partly in English. The gal leading this Sabbath sang, recited and read in an earthy alto, joined by the wispy thin elderly voices of the congregants.
Husband and I followed along, him more than me 'cause he's actually speaking Hebrew these days. I was thrilled to know enough to read from right to left. The text was exquisite, full of mystical words, rich and meaningful, strong and solid; like an oak. Un-moveable and intimating of things deep and hidden, roots that secure one to the universe, tendrils clinging to the earth and holding you firmly to a center that won't let you go. History so deep it is magic deeper still. I felt like I was in a different place, a different land.
Deuteronomy was prayed, first in Hebrew and then in English. It jarred me, hearing the English. Jarred me because it was familiar; words I know, words I believe and have read for myself many, many times, words that I pray over my children. And I remembered, but I had to remind myself; like waking oneself up from a daze, this isn't some otherworldly faith tradition. This is my faith tradition.
My faith tradition, but not mine at all. A semblance of what I know, what I believe, what I want, pray, hope to live. But there was no vibrancy there, no joy; just rote; rote speaking, praying, recitation; tradition, firm and un-yielding. Many of the references to “Lord” or “God” were quietly passed over, forgotten, like a morning mist.
And then last week, when we went to the Adat; Joy. Dancing, arms linked, children and the elderly included, laughter washing over one another and prayers that caused your deepest hopes to believe. Magic that is not, was not, never will be pagan, but alludes to 7 dimensions instead of the paltry few that we live in. Magic that lives in a place with cherubim and seraphim and 4 -faced heavenly beings, trumpet-like voices that cause one to weep and a faith that is so otherworldly one would lay down their life in this one for a taste of it. Faith traditions acknowledged and embraced with the Living, Breathing Holy, Holy is the Lamb, Lord Jesus invited in.
We found tradition in the synagogue, like a solid oak table that you stub your toe on in the night. Un-yielding and steadfast but hard and concrete, what’s in front of us right now. A good starting place, that. But the Adat; that is where I want to be; the table still front and center, but this time laden with platters bursting with food and the scent of flowers and sparkly wine flowing and laughter and people all around singing and passionate and vibrant with life. Tradition complete; enough and more. More than we could ever hold on to ourselves. So much that it lingers; like a scent, compelling others to hunger for where we’ve been.
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