I've been having trouble lately with my relationship with God. By "lately" I mean "for the last several years." Frankly, I've been pretty much ignoring him. Well, that's not entirely true. I still say brachot (blessings) on my food, make an effort to do things like keep kosher and sit in a sukkah, that sort of thing. And every morning at the bus stop I pray silently for the bus to come soon, and if it comes immediately I give God an internal high five. The high five reflects a vestigial feeling, left over from when it still really mattered to me that God controls everything in the universe -- even how long I have to wait at a bus stop -- and that everything happens for a good reason. It's not that I don't believe this any more – I don't know whether I do or not -- but that I got tired of thinking about it. Like I said, ignoring.
I consider myself pretty rational for an Orthodox Jew. For example, I've never put much stock into "Segulahs," and in fact consider most of them to be dangerously close to Avoda Zarah (idol worship). When I hear stories about the people who, say, were childless for 10 years and then got a bracha (blessing) from a famous rabbi and had a baby 10 months later, my usual response is to wonder about the many women who got the bracha but did not have a baby, or the women who have babies after 10 years without getting a bracha. Still, I used to be far, far more spiritual than I've been lately. I used to talk to God all the time. Now, my feeling is, he leaves me alone (not fair, I know), so I will leave him alone.
Anyway, shortly after passing the video store on Emek, but before the Community Center, I saw a piece of white A4 printer paper on the sidewalk, being stepped on by other pedestrians as they walked over it. Upon some inspection it looked like a school paper of some kind, with a lot of writing on it, and my curiosity got the better of me, so I picked it up to see what it was. There was no name on it. On the back were a few meaningless scribbles, but on the side that had been facing up, this was typed:
--3--King Solomon looks at the woman with great pity and says:"Arise my daughter! Come, sit by my side and rest awhile. I shall have bread and wine brought before you. Then, after you are refreshed, I shall bring forth your judgment to light."And so the woman sits by his side and there is bread and wine brought in for her. While she is refreshing herself, two strangers from far away lands come to the palace.The horn is blown again ---The strangers walk into the hall. They bow down low before King Solomon, and the king says to them:"Arise, strangers, and tell us who you are and what is your story.""Oh, Great King of Israel! Merchants are we, from the lands of the sea. One day – we hired a boat to ship our merchandise to a far away land. (Come my friend!) We climbed into the boat and we started our trip. At first the sea – is calm – the trip is good. Then, suddenly, the sea boiled us – the waves became bigger and bigger – and the boat was tossed back and forth with no course. And then – a hole burst open at the bottom of the boat! The water flowed in – the boat is sinking, sinking – In a little while we are lost. We turn to our Gods and call out:God of Sidon! God of Ammon! God of Moab! God of Eddom! Gods of Canaan!But to no avail. There is no answer. And the waters keep filling the boat. We are standing neck deep in water. The fear of death is upon us. And at that moment we remember your God, King Solomon, the God of Israel, and we cried out to him as well:God of Israel, save us this day, and we shall give all our goods – gold, silver and precious stones to your temple in Jerusalem!Hardly have we uttered the words when a mighty gust of wind – falls upon us – and within the wind – a small bundle swirls around – and the wind hurles the bundle into the boat – the bundle falls into the hole – the hole is plugged up!
We are saved! We are saved!The storm calms down. The wind disappears. The sea – is smooth again. We row back to land – and when we reach the shore, we climb out of the boat with our heavy sack of merchandise. (Here, my friend, take this heavy sack.) And thus we made our way to Jerusalem. And here we are, great King of Israel, and this is our sack of gold. May this offering please your God, as we do not know how to worship Him."
I have to admit I was moved – enough to take the trampled, dirty piece of paper home. I don't know if I believe in signs, but the fact is that other people walked right by this paper that had been typed up by some anonymous writer or student somewhere, and I was the one who went to the trouble of picking it up and reading it, on a night when I was experiencing turbulent emotional seas. And I feel that perhaps God is waiting for something from me. I don't know what it is, but maybe it's time for me to figure out, in a way that is appropriate for who I am now and at this stage of my life, how to worship Him.