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Scrooge, Jacob, Time and Love

Name your price, a ticket to paradise,

I can’t stay here anymore, I’ve looked high and low, I’ve been from shore to shore to shore

If there’s a shortcut, I’d have found it, but there’s no easy way around it

Light of the world, shine on me, love is the answer. 

Shine on us all, set us free, love is the answer.               England Dan and John Ford Coley

It’s  Dec 24th, and after baking and devouring pizza and we’ve settled down to watch Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I was intrigued: what is it that the “spirits” of the play reveal inspires Ebenezer to completely change directions to embrace a life of joy, tzedakah and community? Dickens has brilliantly played with time using these spirits: awareness of childhood heartbreak and of the grave which awaits Scrooge sandwich a present moment in which his actions can influence the future.  Unbelievably, this is echoed in the end of father Jacob/Israel’s life. (Lest you think this is coincidence, recall the name of Ebenezer Scrooge’s dead partner, whose ghost starts this hullabaloo: Jacob, of course, Jacob Marley!)  As  is Jacob is nearing death, we are told of his life:  Jacob’s days, the years of his life added to 147. Days blend with years and life with death. As the days of his death draw near,  Jacob calls out for Joseph. Stand with me, do me an act of truth and loving kindness… and it is his grave he sees, and the act of  kindness is to bury him with his ancestors is Canaan. In the very next scene his grandsons, Ephraim and Menasheh appear: the future.  It is Ephraim and Menasheh’s names that many parents use today to invoke blessings for their sons.

Past, present, future, all mixed together, which of these time-realities has intense meaning? which holds the divine? One philosopher’s view of time is this beautiful thought by the pacifist  Alain “we wait to die as if every moment were not dying and coming back to life. With each moment we are offered a new life.  Today, now, immediately, it is our only foothold.”  And yet all those moments in the past, and perhaps the possible lines into the future are real and eternal too.   In relativity, time exists as  part of the weave of space-time, which says that all time exists at once: past, present and future we can only experience it linearly. For more on time and relativity:

Ultimately, perhaps what’s real, and what links these times and perspectives is love, as Carole King sings:

Childhood dreams like muddy waters

Flowing through me to my son and daughters …

Only love is real, everything else illusion …

We end the book of Genesis this week with the dying of these iconic giants of our history/psyche. There are many forces and emotions which have propelled our ancestors and propel us too. But perhaps the only one which yields life, which endures has been love – the “foothold” and reality.  Judah’s and Joseph’s love have trumped jealousy and resentment to allow this moment. For Ebinezar Scrooge, acts and awareness of love save Tiny Tim, himself, and maybe us too.

But seriously, what’s love got to do with reality? what about all those other physical realities, such as those revealed by cold science, you know: f=ma? ( )  Consider this: it it is love that makes this universe full of stars and life meaningful, is why we care about the universe at all. The pieces of the universe in proper relationship have created our bodies and souls, and  if we choose it or if we’re lucky, pieces of the universe love us, and we them.  One of the commandments most puzzling to some is the V’ahavta the command to Love God with all our heart, soul and might. This command follows the Shema and is in our mezuzah. But how and why love God? Perhaps this: love itself – the creative power that emerges with pieces of the universe in just the right relationship, is in reality a facet of God. What if our echo of this divine love is what makes us b’tzelem Elohim, in God’s image/shadow? But how can we love God in such a troubled world?

From Aaron Zeitlin’s Look at the Stars and Yawn:

Praise me, and I will know that you love Me.  Curse me, and I will know that you love Me.   Praise me or curse me and I will know that you love Me.

Sing out My Graces, says God; raise your fist and revile Me, says God  

Sing out graces or revile, reviling is also a kind of praise, says God.       

But if you sit fenced off in your apathy, says God, If you sit entrenched in ” I could care less” says God,                                        

If you look at the stars and yawn,  If you look at suffering and don’t cry out;

If you don’t praise and you don’t revile,  Then I have created you in vain, says God   **

So Ebinezer gets a glimpse across time and dimensions, recognizes the love lost in his childhood and youth, and lets love rule his present actions and so change the future. Jacob glimpses also across time, and our family survives through love. Love is the answer: God bless us every one!

** I know this poem has theological challenges: it presumes a deterministic view of God, in other words that God is puppeting the bad stuff, so we are obliged to raise our fist in protest. But in a universe containing chaos, and quantum fluctuations, God is the good stuff, the creativity, the life and love. We are God’s partners in making the good happen. In my view!


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