Once again, inspiration comes from study with R. Ori Har of Aleph. Many thanks!
We all know the story of Noah’s ark, right? Speaking for myself, the answer is “Wrong!” , (and maybe I never really will). So what’s weird about this 100 meter long, 3 story cruise ship is that in all it’s hugeness, there is no light or air except from a single small window, and we in that boat are scared, adrift and nauseated. The demands keep us enfolded always in responsibility and darkness and trying to meet needs. There is only one opening for air and light. We are magnetically drawn to it. It seems the only thing worthy of our attention. It alone has the power to uplift, to save, to inspire us, linking us to worlds beyond our narrow one. I am hypnotized by that light, impaled and tethered to photons from worlds far away and beautiful. R. Ori teaches via the Baal Shem tov, that the way to be connected and uplifted is through words, which have the power to both lift and create (as the world was created through “word”) Words that are animated by passionate, musical prayer. I resonate powerfully with this metaphor: how often have music and/or prayer been so brilliant, they outshine “reality”!
And yet, back in the darkness, and stench, and the nausea of that ark is: life. Not only life, but life’s only remnant and hope for continuance (and we know that life is “good” and “very good”). I don’t really want to go back down there, yet the ray of light that I am tethered to and inspired by is meaningless without that return.
Our world is in trouble now as then. Our actions to one another often inflicted enough pain to darken life and hope. We wound natural systems and creatures that, beautiful and worthy in themselves, we further need to sustain us. We despoil a planet. This planet itself floats as did that ark – but made of water, we float in space, housing the only remnant of life as far as we know or can reach in the universe.
So, I need to find a balance of working in the muck and tethering myself to life. But it takes courage to really work in the muck – these folks are my heroes. And it that stab of light can be elusive….
But maybe there’s another level. Although we stayed in that (d)ark a really long time, (almost a year, what with flooding and waters surging and returning), it wasn’t forever. The real next level is emerging into the light. What you really need faith for, is to know hat times of darkness will end, so that you no longer have to choose between life and light. Whether the darkness is personal depression or dark times, it takes courage to know things will be OK soon. The job of that light coming through is to remind us, to keep us tethered to that knowledge. If we despair, we won’t feed the animals, or ourselves, and so much will be lost- maybe everything.
A psalm strongly connected for me begins Mi-ma’amikim, “from out of the depths, I call to you” (psalm 130) – maybe that would be my prayer from inside the boat. I heard the words beautifully sung a year ago by Cantor Angela Buchdahl on the Shabbat following Hurricane Sandy, and the flooding and power outages that were the reality that week. Maamikim by Idan Raichel project’s song, a love song derived from the words of the psalm – it is beautiful: powerfully connecting love to the call from the depths.