In this post: another handful of excerpts from, and links to, my favorite posts from 2014. This is the third and final installment in the series. Enjoy!
These are rocky shoals and unfamiliar waters, and there is no lighthouse guiding the way. Nothing is easy. And my heart overflows with emotion, because this is not what I want for my loved one, and I am entirely powerless to effect any change at all. What does it mean to try to maintain optimism in the face of a beloved's suffering? What does it mean to try to maintain hope? To what extent am I obligated to cultivate hope even if my loved one can't join me in feeling that hope?
It's arguable that the beginning of every regeneration, for the Doctor, is an opportunity for teshuvah. The Doctor travels through space and time trying to do good. He inevitably falls short somewhere along the way. And he always gets the chance to start over. Perhaps these are my rabbinic lenses at work, but I've always experienced Doctor Who as a fundamentally Jewish show (even though there's no explicit Jewishness in it) because of how the show's structure centers around the idea of beginning again. Toward the end of the first episode of the new season, the Doctor reflects, "I've made many mistakes. It's about time I did something about that." That's the quintessential move of teshuvah: recognizing that we've missed the mark, resolving to orient ourselves in a new direction, and aiming to do better the next time the opportunity comes along.
It's a good thing my rabbinic smicha wasn't contingent on my sewing skills. That was the thought which kept going through my head as I struggled with carefully snipping seams (without snipping fabric), placing careful stitches to keep the seams from unravelling further, and then stitching four squares of folded fabric to make reinforced corners. I am not a seamstress, so this pushed the limits of my sewing capabilities. My stitches are far from beautiful or even. But they're functional, and that's what matters. Then I lined up threads in groups of four -- three short, one long -- and pushed them through the reinforced corners. And then I twisted them and tied them. By the time I was done, I had made myself a tallit katan.
I try repeatedly to photograph our sukkah in a way which would show you what it looks like, what it feels like. But as with the panorama of the autumnal Berkshire hills, the pictures of the sukkah don't capture its reality. Autumn light streaming past golden tinsel garlands and shiny glitter pumpkins, the endless soft rustle of the roof, the little lights which gleam at nightfall. All I can capture are glimpses.
We need a larger framework of conflict transformation. We need to find a way to lift ourselves up, out of the positions we already hold and the things we've already tried. We need to seek to see the situation from a God's-eye view in order to create a path toward a different future. The Sfat Emet teaches that from where God sits (as it were) there are no binaries, no us/them, just goodness and oneness and love. As human beings we all have to find a way to see each other through God's eyes.
Like Buzz Lightyear, the toy who grew into a mensch when he recognized who he was, we have limitations. We can't keep our lives on a perpetual course of ascent. But if we can learn to embrace the journey, we can turn our falls into opportunities to soar. Buzz, like Joseph, is arguably pretty conceited when his story begins. But by the end of the film he relinquishes ego with the very words which had felt disparaging to him at the start of the film: "This isn't flying -- it's falling with style!"