The obstacle is the door
New book on Jewish rites of death

Let's do the time warp again

25190901916_2380a9f117_zOne of the surreal things about being a rabbi is that my work asks me to inhabit several different moments in time at once.

Purim is one month away, so I'm poking at the script for this year's Purimspiel. Pesach is two months away, and I've been working on creating a digital version of my haggadah (intended to be released as a set of shareable / editable slides, for those who might want to save paper by projecting the haggadah on a screen. Stay tuned; that's coming soon.) And I'm also working on revisions to my high holiday machzor, based on feedback from those who used the pilot editions.

What this means for me on a practical level is that both of my desks, the one at the synagogue and the one at home, are piled with liturgical materials which don't match each other. It also means that the mental melodies with which I spend my days are as likely to be high holiday nusach as they are to be "Adir Hu" from the Pesach seder. (Or, okay, in fairness -- they're also likely to be the Hamilton soundtrack. But when I'm not humming Hamilton, the liturgical soundtrack is set on random play.)

I like this sense of time warp. It feels a little bit like being in several places at once -- several headspaces, several heart-spaces. No moment in the Jewish year arises out of nowhere; each is connected with what will come after and what came before. There's something profoundly grounding for me in that awareness. The challenge is learning how to wholly inhabit this moment now while also remembering where I've been and where I have yet to go.

Wait. How can I remember where I have yet to go? I don't know what Pesach this year will hold! (Or Shavuot or the Days of Awe or anything else!) But I can re-inhabit what's come before. I imagine the Jewsh year as a long spiral staircase. Every year when we reach Pesach we're exactly above the Pesachim which came before, but at a different level. Somewhere in the overlayering of all of those Passover memories I can tap into the essence of the festival. That's what I can remember, even though I haven't yet experienced this year's iteration.

And that's part of what I love about having a mental liturgical-music soundtrack, because music is one of my deepest paths toward feeling . When I hear the lilt of Esther trope, I feel spring unfolding around me. When I hear the Pesach melodies of my childhood, I'm plugged right back in to the essence of Passover. When I hear the melodic mode of the Days of Awe, I'm instantly transported to that season of transformation. God, it is said, inhabits all of time and space at once. From God's vantage there is no "before" and "after" -- everything simply is. This interweaving of different musics is the closest I can get.