Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Four Children in a Garden

I was listening to a podcast recently where Rabbi Lawrence Kushner was being interviewed by NPR. He related a fascinating story which blew my mind:
I was leading a tour of the sanctuary, of the prayer hall with the children in the congregation’s preschool. [..] I’d have them come onto the bima, or the little prayer stage up in front of the room, where there was an ark where we kept the scroll of the Torah. It was accessible via a big floor-to-ceiling curtain. And I got them up on the stage, and I was about to call them—’Open the ark,’ but I saw the teacher at the back tapping her wristwatch, which as you may know, is an old Talmudic gesture, which means your time is about up, bucko. So, I said, ‘I tell you what, boys and girls. We’ll come back when we get together again in a couple of weeks, we’ll come back here and I’m going to open that curtain there and show you what’s behind it.’ [..]
Well, the next day, the teacher shows up at my office with the following story. Apparently the preceding day’s hastily-concluded lesson has occasioned the fierce debate among the little people as to what is behind the curtain. They didn’t know. And, the following four answers are given, which is I think pretty interesting. One kid obviously destined to become a professor of nihilistic philosophy at a great university opined that behind that curtain was absolutely nothing.  Another kid, less imaginative, thought it had a Jewish holy thing in there. A third kid obviously a devotee of American game show television subculture, guessed that behind that curtain was a brand new car. And the fourth kid, [..] said no, you’re all wrong. Next week when that rabbi man comes and opens that curtain, behind it, there would be a giant mirror. From a four year old. Somehow, that little soul knew that through looking at the words of sacred scripture, he would encounter himself in a new and a heightened and revealing way.
I was completely blown away from this little snippet. I think that very often in life we look at Hashem and the Torah through some of the same lenses that these children saw it. We sometimes view it as if there is nothing there and he doesn't really exist. Sometimes we view Hashem as holy, untouchable and separate from us. We sometimes view Hashem and avodas hashem as the answer to our dreams and desires. And sometimes we see Hashem as a giant mirror of who we are and want we want him to be.

Have a listen for youself here


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