I want to bring you to the mountaintop, so that you can feel the presence of God, find that transcendent arc that allows you to dance in God's hand. I want to hear that sigh, of relief, of recognition-- yes; this is it, this is what I believe, this is good. Like coming home after a hard journey, not to fanfare and parades, but to warmth and love and gentleness.
What I get, more often than not, is a heavy use of my delete key: pixels scattering through the ether, getting eaten by the very hungry ghosts in my machine. What I get, more often than not, is doubt.
Belief can be hard.
It feels so much like walking on a high wire without a net, belief does. It's a precarious perch, and I hate to admit that, after decades of mindful searching, I find I misplace my belief almost as often as I find it. Dammit-- why can't I have what Maimonides proclaimed: I believe with perfect faith...
What I have learned-- slowly, very slowly-- is that my belief is a living thing: it grows and recedes and changes. What I believed as a child has changed. Thank God. Back then, I believed some pretty weird things, not least of which was that magic was real, unicorns lived and my baby brother was part chicken because he had to live in an incubator for a while after he was born (long story short: he was not part chicken, though he was jaundiced). As an adult, I can ask: What belief hasn't changed?
There was a time I did not believe in God.
There was a much longer (and more desperate) time I believed God didn't believe in me.
There was a time that I didn't believe in myself. This one is still true. Sometimes.
There was a time I believed I was broken, unfixable, irredeemable. That's the thing about belief: it changes. It deepens, softens, drifts in an ever-shifting pattern.
As I prepare to dance that transcendent and holy arc of the High Holy Days, Elul gives me a breath of time to challenge my beliefs, to be mindful of them, to examine them in the light of day and under cover of star-bright skies. When I look close enough, I can see, woven among the thousand thousand strands of my belief, is doubt and cynicism and naivete. My disbelief is there to be challenged just as well.
Finally, I understand: It's all good-- my belief, my doubt. It is neither black nor white, the world of my belief: it is a bright and shining place of glorious silver. I don't need to be like the Rambam; I don't need to believe perfectly, I just need to believe.