Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Little Rain, A Lot of Humility - Wednesday Kavvanah, 5/2/2012

Yesterday morning as I was preparing to leave for morning minyan, it was raining quite heavily.  Our gutters have not yet been cleaned of the spring debris, and so the water was spilling out of them, flowing down the windows, and leaking into the dining room, where a small puddle was gathering.  Hmm, thought I.  No matter how great the structures we build around ourselves, no matter how much we try to seal ourselves off from the forces of nature, Creation always manages to find its way in.

As regular readers of this blog know, I am a scientific person.  I cannot deny that for this world to make sense, the laws of physics dictate that (for example) the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, and the universe 14 billion or so.  I am wary of theologies that mandate checking the intellect in favor of blind faith, or even those that attempt to square science and religion where they seem to conflict.

But certain poetic / midrashic approaches always appeal to me; creative ideas about the ways through which God enters our rationality, just as the rain finds its way into the rabbi's parsonage.  It is indeed possible to clothe ourselves in logic, in academic scaffolding, and thereby ignore the still, small voice of the Divine.  However, even those of us whose understanding of the world seems waterproof occasionally find ourselves dripping wet, and particularly in the context of loss or joy or life's milestones.  Those are the times that we are most likely not only to seek friends and family, but also to let God in. 

In every morning service, just after the morning berakhot / blessings, we read (or more likely mumble) the following:
הֲלא כָל הַגִּבּורִים כְּאַיִן לְפָנֶיךָ וְאַנְשֵׁי הַשֵּׁם כְּלא הָיוּ וַחֲכָמִים כִּבְלִי מַדָּע וּנְבונִים כִּבְלִי הַשכֵּל
Compared to You, all the powerful are nothing, the famous, insignificant; the wise lack wisdom, the clever lack reason.
This brief passage, stuck in the middle of a great deal of text, deserves more attention than it ever gets.  A little dose of humility in the morning, a reminder of the long view, helps us to see that no matter what we achieve or own or create, there are even greater things, and this is an invaluable principle to carry with us into the day as we work, learn, and love.  Sometimes we need that rain.

Rabbi Seth Adelson

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