“Will it rain today?” I ask in our second year of drought.
“30%,” says the online weather forecast.
“Ask the clouds and wind,” says the sky.
“Listen!” says the ancient text:
Listen to my voice – the voice of all being, the voice of all life.
Love me and serve me with all your heart and all your soul.
Then the rains will come in due season to water your land,
and you will eat and be satisfied.
Guard yourself from twisting your heart to serve other gods,
the ones who will make you deaf and blind to me,
the ones who will shut down heaven and shut down the rain.
Then the earth will no longer yield produce,
and you will perish quickly.
Connect these words with your eyes (what you see).
Connect these words with you hands (what you do).
So you and your children can live abundant days on the land I gave you
like days of heaven on earth.
(Words based on Deutoronomy 11:13-21)
“Will it rain today?” I ask my friends and neighbors.
“Will it rain today?” I ask my children.
“Will it rain today?” I ask my brothers and sisters everywhere.
I wait to find out.
“Say 100 blessings every day.”
Rabbi Meir, Babylonian Talmud
all blessings to you, being who gods us, presence of the world
for everyday wonders and miracles
for restoring sight to the blind
for clothing the naked
for freeing the bound
for straightening the bent
for loving us with eternal love
for bringing the dead back to life
from the daily Hebrew prayers
This is the time to study Noah, when the waters are rising. “Aseh l’cha tevah,” God said. Make yourself an ark.
On the front end of dawn, there are no distinctions between water and land and sky. Only mist and darkness. Distinctions emerge later, riding on a flood of sunlight. Distinctions and information require choices.
The sea is calm this morning. The waves are gentle.
The data are in, said our local county supervisor this week. The sea is rising. Erosion is threatening the coast highway. We need to act to preserve our community. If I listen hard, I can hear echoes of other voices in communities around the planet, saying the same thing.
“Make yourself a tevah,” God said. An ark.
Translate “tevah” as “word,” said our teacher the Holy Baal Shem Tov.
Build yourself an ark of prayer and knowledge and kindness and faith — and the floods in your own day will not overwhelm you. You will live to witness the fulfillment of God’s covenant: the world will not be destroyed again. It will not. Hold on to this faith, even when all you can see is mist and darkness. But build yourself a tevah.
Now it’s our turn. We need a tevah big enough to include every person and all life. We can only build it together. We need action infused with love.
The lesson of Noah: get ready. Emerging from mist and darkness: the rainbow.
No, it is not your imagination:
a time of darkness is approaching.
Were it not for three or four thousand years of memory and wisdom
we might not know about cycles.
We might think the world was flat.
As it is written:
golel or mipnei hoshekh v’hoshekh mipnei or.
The wholeness beyond our vision
can only appear to us as the cyclical unfolding of opposites:
light rolling from the face of darkness;
darkness from the face of light.
In a time of darkness it is helpful to stick together
for finding sustenance
for keeping each other warm
for finding our way
for remembering the whole
as we train our night vision
on the inevitable approach of Spring.
It is a gift from God, built into creation which is always changing. Nothing is what it was; nothing will be what it is.
At this time of year Jews celebrate impermanence with joy. We remember our 40 years in the desert by living for a week in temporary outdoor dwellings. We celebrate the unchanging unity within impermanence by waving the Four Species of plants, which embody the diversity of nature and and the four dimensions of existence, in all directions.
I walked into the Chabad Center to pick up my Four Species. They came from Egypt, Israel, the US East Coast and the US West Coast. In the thick swarm of staff, volunteers and customers, I’m surprised to see the rabbi, a guy about my age with a bushy white beard and a face wrinkled by years of kindness and service to others, rushing around bringing people their palm branches, etrogs, willow leaves and myrtle leaves.
He stops in front of me. “So who are you?” he says. We’ve both spent 30 years in Silicon Valley and know many people in common, but have never met. I tell him a little about me, the good things I’ve heard about him, and whom we both know. We look at each other and smile. He seems a little startled when I give him a hug. We wish each other a happy holiday. He invites me and Wendy to come have dinner with his family on Shabbos, and then rushes off to serve the next person.
As the sun was rising this morning while I sat outside with my cup of tea, a bird was singing, bobbing it’s head and dancing on the highest branch in front of me. That’s my blog post for this morning, I thought. I went inside to get my camera.
When I returned, the bird was gone.
The Talmud relates the following story:
Rabbi Joshua ben Levi met Elijah the Prophet standing by the entrance of Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai’s tomb…. He then asked him, “When will the Messiah come?”
“Go and ask him himself,” was his reply.
“Where is he sitting?”
“At the entrance.”
“And by what sign may I recognize him?”
“He is sitting among the poor lepers….”
So he went to him and greeted him, saying, “Peace upon you, Master and Teacher.”
“Peace upon you, O son of Levi,” he replied.
‘When will you come Master?” he asked.
“Today”, was his answer.
When he returned to Elijah, the latter enquired, “What did he say to you?”…
“He spoke falsely to me,” he said, “stating that he would come today, but he has not.”
Elijah answered him, “This is what he said to you: Today, if you will hear his voice.”
Babyonian Talmud: Sanhedrin 98a
(Based on the translation at Come and Hear.)