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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

When is the Moment?

I was thinking as I drove the interstate this week about time.

 As a people we seem to be always trying to focus on the moment but also very much in past. Tales of grandmothers and people long gone were the talk as typical when visiting family on the mountain. We had my sister in law's boys at the house too, a four and a nine year old, playing in the living room.

 A break in continuity seemed present between them. Some of the demeanor is in the age difference and the birth order but I wondered if there was more to it. I was thinking on some reading I had done about all the things we get from our grandmothers as we grow.

  The older child had much more of a relationship with his great grandmother than the younger ever did. He'll remember his great grandmother, to what extent who can say, but what he internalized will be with him.

Image result for old hands

 It struck me reading on Vayyechi (And he Lived) How we exist in time. We all swim in the time line as humans but I wonder what it means as Jews specifically? How the starting line is at sundown, how time is locally important. How we don't do things at the same time but as a cascade across the globe such as lighting the Shabbat candles. We are a wave of light starting small at the international date line and growing into blaze before starting again with Havdalah in the extreme east starting the crescendo again.

  Jacob is Jacob in the narrative of Torah again, even though time drew near that Israel must die, as the parsha starts. He never thought he'd see his lost child Josef again. Now we have him adopting two more (Josef's boys) into his tribe so that they would not be left out in future times.

 Torah reads that Jacob was seventeen years in Egypt. That's time to get to know a grandparent.  I thought of Kurt Vonnegut Jr.- "And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep."

 If the Russian language grants the Russian people a more nuanced sense of the color blue, what does the Jewish concept of time do to us? A global relay of Shabbat as the sun sets and the stars rise like the sweep hand on a clock. Not the rightnow digital time gives us, nor the clunky ticking of simple clocks but a smooth spiral. I could see the boy's great grandmother in their aunt, my wife. I had sixteen years to get to know this grandmother. The first yahrzeit is coming up in a month.


 The mountain hasn't been the same since she died, I don't suspect it was the same for Josef or his brothers or their children either when Jacob's time really did come. It's hard to feel adrift and at the same time have a new generation looking at you as the anchor. We do as we were shown and hope it's enough to keep the tribe together and on a good foot.

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