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I write, mostly to keep my head from exploding. It threatens to do that a lot. My blog is the pixelated version of all the voices in my head. I tend to dive into what connects me to God, my community, my family and my doubt. I do a lot of searching, not as much finding. I’m good with that. I have learned, finally, to live comfortably in the gray. In the meantime, I wrestle with God, and my doubt and my joy.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

19 Elul 5773: Ask

Why is the sky blue?
Can I go out to play?
How high is up?
Where are you going?
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Where are you going?

All day long, all our lives, we ask: why? Can I? Will you? Should we? It's another holy grammar-- the conjugation of petition. Tone changes, of course. Inflection is important. Under it all, there is a bedrock of want and need.

We ask constantly and without thinking in our insatiable need to know.

And I know it sounds as if I have an issue with this. I don't. I thirst for the whys and the wherefores of my life. I read encyclopedias and dictionaries as a kid. OK-- as an adult, too, but it sounds so much less geeky to admit to the practice from my childhood.  These are the public questions, the ones that can be paraded in front of God and everybody, and they often come with handy source books and reference guides.

Then there are the somewhat less public questions. Who am I? How do I fit? Where am I going? These are the good angsty, existential questions that hounded me early on, that I hid from for what seemed like forever, that I came to terms with at some point, and which, these days, still pop up, swirl around my head for a while before settling down in some dusty box I keep in storage in some dark corner, buried deep. 

As I'm writing this, I am noticing something curious: all these questions-- I ask them of myself. As Elul goes, they're perfectly fine and natural questions. That I ask them throughout the year? It's all good. During Elul, I shift the world, bend the light, change the perspective of my questions. I dive deeper and with more intention, I go out to meet the questions here, rather than notice them as they come buzzing. 

Who am I?
How do I fit?

And because this is Elul, I find I cannot stop here. this is a time to dive in and reach out. This is the leaping part, the scary part. Lana Del Rey's song, Young and Beautiful, has been haunting me all afternoon, as I've been writing this-- the chorus, at least. "Will you still love me when I'm no longer young, and beautiful? Will you still love me when I got nothing but my aching soul?" (If you haven't heard it, take a minute to listen. Go ahead. I'll wait.)

This is raw and naked need. These aren't the Colorform questions, the ones I stick up on a shiny board to dress them with shiny shaped plastic, trying on all the pretty colors to see what works best. These are the questions that sear your soul, the ones that keep you up at night, and make your skin clammy. 

Will you love me? 
Will you forgive me? 
Can I come home? 
Will there be anyone around to care? 

We can't not ask them. They're a part of who we are and how we fit. They're also a part of Elul-- the reaching out and up part, the part that stretches us and redeems us. The part that can make us whole.

This would have been enough -- dayenu -- , I think, for my blog post of the day (18 Elul). It would have, but then I saw some postings from Women of the Wall, and what is happening at the Kotel (the Wall, in Jerusalem). The Minister of Religious Services has announced his support of a plan that would erect a balcony at the Robinson Arch, effectively exile women-- and any Jew who prays in a way that does not conform to ultra-Orthodox tradition-- away from the area of the Wall where Jews have prayed for generations. It is another effort, in a long series of mindful, concerted efforts, to keep women who want to pray at the Wall separate from, exiled from, excluded from this place. This holy and sacred place. 

So they are sitting in. Now, even as I type this, they are sitting in, and praying and coming together and asking that we join them This is also raw and aching need. They are not asking for crumbs or second-rate solution. They are asking for a place. They are asking for a place at the Wall, to pray and celebrate and grieve and hear the still, small voice of God. A place that has been denied them, again and again. 

This weekend, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's march on Washington. We asked questions then, too. Can we be one nation? Can we demand fairness and justice? Can we declare the rights we all have, to vote, to work and learn and live as we choose? Can we eradicate the intrinsically unfair notion of Separate but Equal? It was a bloody and difficult battle, but we declared, from Selma to Stone Mountain, Chicago to Detroit to Birmingham to Watts-- from sea to shining sea-- we answered: "There will be justice." 

Part of asking is also the obligation to respond. 

     Will you love me? 
     Will you forgive me? 
     Can I pray, and lift up my voice to God, in this sacred and holy place? 

How will you respond?