Wednesday, September 23, 2009

When I Call, Will You Answer?

Every day (or almost) I log on to my blog, sit down and write something. I pour my soul out onto the pages of this blog, and for the past three-and-a-half years, and for every day of these past several years I've seen the words written there, below the title of my blog: Sh'ma HaShem, qoli eqra v'chaneni v'aneni. It's funny because I was thinking about it tonight, sitting here, trying to make myself go to sleep, and I realized I'd forgotten what the phrase meant or why I put it there. Let's deconstruct.

Sh'ma HaShem: Hear, G-d
Qoli eqra: My voice cries,
V'chaneni:  Be gracious to me,
V'aneni: Answer me.

Source? Psalms 27:7. We read from this Psalm every day during the month of Elul. I can't believe I'd gotten so lost in the constant of seeing it there that I forgot what it was, where it was from, how important the phrasing and words are.

Now, I went back in the annals of this blog and found a really fascinating post (am I tooting my own horn here?) that I'd written in late August 2006. I was four months out of a Reform conversion, and almost three years into studying Judaism seriously. Even then, at that point, I knew that I wasn't content with a religion of do-do-do without feel-feel-feel. I'm not saying that Reform Judaism was that, but what I was seeing and experiencing was that. I was never that kind of Jew.

A morsel of that post:
I read an article in Tikkun about a guy who was at a bookstore in Tennessee when he ran into a college-age kid who was browsing the small Judaica section in a Border's books. He observed that the kid would pick up a book, flip through it and put it back as if he wasn't really looking. The guy walked over to the collegian and they got to talking about what this kid was looking for -- G-d. The collegian said that G-d was missing from so many books. That G-d is almost devoid of meaning in modern Judaism -- in nearly all followings therein. It got me thinking. The one thing I always detested about "religion" was that it lacked rhyme or reason. Things were done because "that's just what we do." You go to church on Sunday because that's what a good Christian does. You daven three times a day, because that's what a good Jew does. You go to confession, becuase, well, that's what a good Catholic does. The WHY gets lost in translation. That's also what drew me so much to Judaism ... the idea of rabbis across centuries arguing things down to the accidental ink blot on a specific Talmudic trachtate. It is, enlightening and brilliant the amount of discussion and argument that goes into Jewish thought. But it feels like we're missing something. G-d?
When rabbinic and Talmudic Judaism was born, G-d almost disappeared from the Jewish map. It makes you wonder of Adonai is sitting idly by, waiting for Jews everywhere to realize that when they left for Summer Vacation, they left good ole' Adonai sitting on the front porch stoop. Many, many years later, there Adonai sits. Waiting. And what are we doing? Well, I'm not sure.
I know what I'm doing. I'm making a concerted effort to "rekindle the flame" as a popular phrase within the Jewish literary circles quips. I carry G-d with me more than I ever did when I was wrestling with organized religion or my fear of life after death. It's almost an unconcious hum in my head, always keeping me at ease. It's the moments when I'm ill at ease that I seem to cry out, truly and deeply, for strength, reciting the words in the Siddur (page 75) that my rabbi and I discussed so often (cannot rebuild a bridge, but can mend a broken heart). I don't want to be a Jew-by-habit, I'm a Jew-by-Choice, who chooses to create a holy bubble where G-d is more than just four letters in the holy books.
So each morning when I rise, I'll rebuild the figure near the bimah and the shofar, the sound it makes calling us to repentence, to focus on heshbon ha'nefesh -- taking stock of oneself, the soul, reflecting and asking for Divine forgiveness. I'll recite the Psalm, calling Adonai to hear my cries, and I will think of Moshe, ascending the mount for the third time on this day in 2448. I will find my kavannah, and I will keep my beloved close, as my beloved keeps me close.
I think I knew where I was going back then. I knew what I needed, and that hasn't changed. Finding that place, that "holy bubble" that I mention is a constant pursuit of mine. Especially this time of year, when I think about calling out to G-d, asking G-d to hear my voice, to really, truly hear me. To be gracious to me.

And most importantly? To answer.