I don’t think I’ve ever had a more honest conversation with my sister-in-law Wendy than I had with her on the phone the other day. I asked her for some honest feedback about my blog. She’s the one who really encouraged me to start writing and I wondered what she thought of it, now that she gets a weekly e-mail reminder that I’ve written something else.
I was happy to hear that she enjoyed the stories and not surprised to hear that she pretty much tunes out when I start to talk about the Jewish stuff. “Is it unclear?” I asked. “No,” she answered. “Preachy?” I asked, holding my breath slightly, knowing that would mean I had crossed over into obnoxiousness.
“No, it’s just that your level of belief is very far from mine,” she answered. “I think you need to meet people where they are.” That could be a little difficult since I have no idea who or where most of the people who read this blog are.
But, still, something felt so good, so real when, for the first time ever, I asked her straight out, “so, what do you believe?” (I know the moment was significant because I remember exactly where I was when I asked her.) “You mean, do I believe in G-d?” she asked with a laugh.
Just to tiptoe into the discussion felt like it forged a new bond between us, even though, it turns out, we relate to G-d very differently. But just those few minutes of talking openly about Him brought spirituality into our relationship. For the first time ever, we were talking soul to soul.
She told me that she believed in G-d but that He was “limited.” I could hear she was getting nervous so I stopped, at least for the time being.
But maybe next time I’ll ask Wendy if she’s satisfied being in a limited relationship? Is that all she thinks He’s capable of or is that all she wants?
My guess is that it’s the latter. The book of Psalms says, “G-d is your shadow.” If we only involve G-d in a “limited” way, that’s how we will experience Him; if we seek to experience Him with our every breath, He’s available for that, too.
A limited relationship might not be so satisfying, but a relationship with a limited G-d does have the advantage of letting both parties off the hook a little.
The hardest part of having an intimate relationship with an unlimited G-d is that His ways are beyond our very limited understanding.
And because of this, there can be a lot of pain in life that ultimately comes from Him.
One way is to accept these challenges as tests of faith. It would be easy to love G-d if His ways were always to our liking. Another way is to work at appreciating His many ways that truly are to our liking, to achieve an awareness of His involvement in the mundane miracles of our lives, both as individuals and as a Jewish nation.
This is the essential message of Purim: G-d’s miracles are hidden in what we have come to call “coincidences.” If you read the Megillah, G-d’s name is never mentioned. Yet, circumstances in ancient Shushan were such that everything went right–only at the very end, of course–and the Jewish people were saved from Haman’s plot to annihilate them.
When it comes to preserving the Jewish nation, G-d has proven to be anything but limited. He saved us then and He saves us now, even in recent times.
On the holiday of Purim in 1991, the Gulf War ended in Israel with astonishingly few casualties. It was also the day our daughter Sara Esther was born. As I experienced the miracle of childbirth, combined with a national Jewish miracle, this lesson was lovingly yet powerfully reinforced in my life. G-d is hidden in nature, yet these seemingly “natural” occurrences are no less miraculous than the splitting of the Red Sea.
How much longer is this game of hide and seek going to continue? If you read this blog regularly, you can predict the answer: not much more.
But what Wendy said to me at the end of our conversation left me in a bit of a quandary about talking about Moshiach yet again. She didn’t want to offend me but she said the whole idea just seemed ridiculously far-fetched to her.
So I’m guessing it’s still far-fetched to a lot of you, too. The answer to that, I hope, is not to write about it less but explain it more.
Belief in the coming of Moshiach is the Twelfth of Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles of Faith. I’m assuming it’s number twelve because it’s predicated on believing in the eleven principles that precede it; nonetheless, it’s an absolutely essential Jewish belief.
Somehow though, my relationship with G-d, my belief in Moshiach didn’t follow steps one through twelve. A yearning for a world that made sense was scratching and pounding in my soul for as long as I can remember, long before Torah observance even entered my consciousness. So, I assume that a longing for Moshiach is somewhere in everyone else’s soul, too. I hope so. Because if it’s in yours, today is the day to ask G-d from the bottom of your heart to bring him, so that we can finally know G-d and know what He wants from us.
Why today? Because today is Ta’anis Esther, the fast day that precedes Purim. In those days, at Mordechai’s urging, the Jewish people returned to G-d wholeheartedly.
This morning, I watched a video of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in 1985 as he spoke through tears, asking how much longer the Jewish people would have to suffer before Moshiach’s arrival. I cried, too, remembering how the Rebbe told me personally in 1989 that Moshiach was ready to come “tomorrow or maybe the day after tomorrow.”
And he’s still not here.
I ask you and I ask myself, how many more tomorrows must there be? How many more tears must be shed?