Throughout most of the day, Riverdale seems like a suburb and not really part of the bustling city, just a couple of miles south. Here’s there are big beautiful trees, nearby trails along the river, gorgeous homes, and people who are pleasant to each other like in any other small town. But it’s still in NYC, and that relationship is perhaps most evident when it comes to looking for parking. “There’s plenty of parking”, I was told, “ach, don’t worry about it!” I’m not. That’s why I am out in all wrong hours of the day: morning (schools drop off time), early afternoon (schools pick-up times), late afternoon (back from commute), evening (everybody’s home) and night (you’re out at night??), not to mention the nights before alternate street cleaning, unless it’s Yom Kippur when street cleaning is suspended, and everybody is anyway already parked, getting ready. If there is a space,it’s probably a fire hydrant. So, after putting lots of miles-weight, my blue stallion is on a serious diet. It’s easier to walk almost everywhere; buses and subway are close; and if all else fails, there’s uber. Anything but to move the car. In the famous words of a typical “Tel-Avivi” (person from Tel Aviv): “We should totally get together! No, sorry, I can’t move my car, but you can come here; there’s plenty of parking!!”
This Shabbat we read a song, Shirat Ha’azinu. What is the difference between prayer and song? The Kabbalist point out that tefila (prayer) and shira (song) have the same numerical value. A song is a kind of a prayer but possibly while prayer is more spontaneous, a song is more perfect, more thought-through. The text of this week’s reading is written in two columns as opposed to the usual running text. The words are arranged like bricks, building two towers one on top of the other. There is a parable about a man who watches a tailor preparing a garment. The man, who does not know the art of sewing, is alarmed when the tailor reaches for the cloth and starts cutting and tearing at it, but the end result is a beautiful garment. So it is with us. The song, opening by a call to connect heaven and earth, the spiritual and physical realms, can be seen as a teaching that the two are not inseparable but they do connect. Just before we delve into the endless details of the New Year, it helps remind us that somewhere, sometime, there is a possibility for perfection.
Coming up: Sukkot:
Almost as soon as Yom Kippur was over, an email flew in from the shul: come pick up your Lulav & Etrog! Currently night life in Riverdale (when not looking for parking) includes shul hopping (when it’s Shabbat and Holiday) and getting ready for the next Shabbat or holiday. Sukkot is fun and it’s everywhere, but this year, as the holiday is “late”, there is also great concern that it might rain. We go out davka (especially) when it gets colder outside and everybody thinks about going in and getting ready for winter. Sure, we can say that the Torah didn’t know we’d be living in North America and thought more of fall in the Land of Israel but even there it starts raining during this season.
Much has been written about going out as a symbolism for having faith; maybe we can just stop after “going out”. oaith is a complicated thing, with no guarantee, while on so many levels, it’s crucial to first, just “go out”. G-d told Abraham to go out of his homeland and birth place. Jacob had to go out from that homeland. The Children of Israel left their land and then again left Egypt. And after centuries back in the Land, the Jews were dispersed all over the world. To be clear, I am not suggesting a nomadic lifestyle, but there is power in going out: going out of our homes and seeing nature, miracles and other people with their wisdom, joys, and pains; going out of our minds and expanding our thinking; going out as individuals, couples, families, communities, to see that which we don’t yet know.
On Yom Kippur, Rabbi Steven Exler, Senior Rabbi of HIR, gave a beautiful sermon telling about the Temple service and the High Priest of old who according to the Talmud used to say: : יותר ממה שקראתי לפניכם כתוב כאן – More than I have read before you, is written here (Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 70:1). Should we think that what we have in front of us, is all there is, we’re reminded again and again: there is so much more. Rain or shine, let’s go out and see.
Shabbat Shalom & Chag Same’ach!