My 19-month-old daughter loves watching for school buses. She camps out on our couch, eyes eagerly scanning for any sign of yellow, and when one goes by, she squeals “Bus!!!!”
I have been in and out of sleep all night. I wake automatically reaching for the remote to see if it has gotten any worse. I hold my blanket up so that only my eyes can see, pretending somehow that if I cover enough of myself, only parts of the news with infiltrate my soul. It is too late though. All of me is infected. All of us are infected.
“April is the cruellest month, breeding
When I was in high school, I boarded a bus every Saturday morning to take extracurricular classes on topics like law and debate. One of my debate teachers was a Yale student at the time, and his name was Mark Oppenheimer. When I ended up doing my undergrad at Yale, Mark was getting his PhD there in American Religious History.
I have to admit, as a parent of an elementary school-aged child, that I am a supporter of and practitioner of what has been called “free-range parenting.” I encourage my kid to strike out on his own – I offer him support and teach him how to manage certain kinds of situations; hand him a charged cell phone and a metro card, and give him a charge to go here or there at certain times. I know the statistics about what is a danger to my kid, and I admit to always having been a bit of a data-hound – which means I probably worry less than some parents – and more than others. I worry mildly the first few times, and then once he’s handled an awkward situation or two well, I move on to finding something new for him to handle.
Can sweeping the floor be sacred? Is it possible to view repairing the HVAC system as holy work? Synagogues have a lofty mission: To continue the Jewish journey of engagement with God and Torah into the next chapter of the story of generations. Synagogues are a place where the bereaved come to mourn their beloved. Synagogues are a place where babies are brought into the covenant of Sinai. Synagogues are the meeting ground where people come to experience a taste of the infinite, a touch of the Divine.
This week’s Torah portion, Tazriah, includes the stipulation that, following the birth of a child, a mother must separate herself from the community for up to almost three months. I cannot think of this bit of our ancient law without bringing to mind the great teaching of Rabbi Phyllis Ocean-Berman who has forever transformed what might seem a troubling segregation of the post partum mother into a safeguard for the preservation of interiority at a time of recovery and nurturance.
The Levitical sequestering of a post partum woman, barring her from the cultic site, was mandated at a time when a wife’s role seems to have been to birth and raise twice as many children as would survive to early adulthood, as well as to manage a household, property, flocks and crops. Forbidding a new mother from entering the Temple grounds suggests an understanding that there will be a lull in her active engagement in the public arena as she narrows her focus to the intimate sphere of family, her newborn the center of her attention.
Recently, a new artisan storefront opened near my Main Street home. As I like to support local artisans, I wandered in for a look. “Our name is Just Jewellery,” said the salesperson. “We specialize in silver and semiprecious stones, featuring the work of several local artists…”
Oh, how I wish the race for the presidency were month or two long. I grow tired of the endless advertising and press coverage in the two-year-long drama. What do we need to know that we couldn’t learn in a shorter, focused campaign?
There is much that is broken in the American political system: Paralyzing partisanship, big money and lobbyists exerting untold influence. But we wouldn’t trade American democracy for anything. We cherish it, even in its imperfection. So how can we make wise choices in the midst of this?