Sometimes, Justice is a sword, slicing cleanly through anything that stands before it. I have walked into its cutting blade, and I have not been unscathed.
Sometimes, Justice is a mighty river, rushing through in a grand sweep, cold and pure washing us clean and bringing about change. I have swum in its quickening current, slaked my thirst in its icy depths, been carried and cleansed and renewed.
We pursue it, always: Justice, justice shall you pursue. So central to our beliefs, it was named twice. We are called to it, commanded to practice it. It is the foundation of who we are as a people. A few months ago, during our tikun leyl Shavuot (our study session to usher in Shavuot), I had one of those Aha! moments that change us, even just a little. One of my greatest joys in Judaism is my continued struggle with it. I wrestle with God and Torah and my doubt. I have severe issues with our ancestors (the original Family Dysfunction, writ large). Don't get me started on God, so often (as I see it) capricious and cruel and uncaring.
And yet, I have this thing with God. I have met the God of Infinite Compassion. I have danced in the palm of God's hand, and found shelter there. I have wept and cursed and prayed to God, and have found healing there.
But this is not the God of the Torah. Sorry. I just don't see it. So what keeps me coming back to this well, this gate, again and again? How do I navigate this disconnect?
On Shavuot, we had a discussion on our relationship with God and Torah. And it came to me, in a rush, and filled me-- the beauty of Torah (and yes, I believe it, we, all of life is Torah) is that we have been given all of it-- all the holes, all the inconsistencies, all the brokenness. But we also get those moments of shining transcendence, those take-your-breath-away pieces that show you not what is, but what could be, what should be. We are commanded to create a world that should be. This is a holy thing.
This is the God of Justice, and we are b'tzelem elohim-- we are made in the image of God. This is what we could be. This is the God I seek. This is the God to whom I return, again and again. This is the God who redeems and renews.
God may be the One who changes me. I am the one who is given the holy task of changing the world. My Aha! moment. The reason I have sought to reflect and prepare, make the long and bumpy journey from my narrow places to the center, to this gate, to this day. Why I seek God and forgiveness. To return, to be redeemed, so I can step through the hates of Justice and change the world.
One more story, because I love it. A short midrash for Yom Kippur:
An old man, stooped with age, made his way to his synagogue on erev Yom Jippur. One of his greatest joys was to hear the simple yearning, the exquisite longing in Kol Nidre, the prayer that begins it all. He couldn't remember a time that he did not weep when he heard it, not once, but three times, every year. He walked slowly, enjoying the just-beginning-to-cool, almost-fall air. One hand held his cane that tapped and scraped against the sidewalk. The other hand cradled two heavy notebooks.
He entered the synagogue, that smelled of lemon oil and anticipation. He paused to offer a prayer as he put on his white tallit. He stopped at the memorial wall and remembered friends and family who had died. Each year, there were more, and he let his grief and sorrow flow through him, letting it go with love and sorrow.
It was early still; he was alone in the sanctuary. There was still time.
He continued his slow and stately walk down the aisle, making his way to the bima, draped in heavy white cloth in honor of the day. He paused in front of the Ark, nodding his respect, and carefully placed his notebooks on the dais side by side. One book was tattered and dog-eared, obviously well-used. It was thick, at least and inch or so of thin paper, no longer blank. The other was also tattered and worn, and perhaps double the size of the first-- two inches at least of thin paper, small, cramped handwriting filling both sides.
The man placed one hand on the first book, lifted his face, and said clearly: "Ok, God. Here are my sins for this year. I confess them, and am sorry for them, and have asked forgiveness for them. I'm here, to make tshuvah, and ask Your forgiveness for the sins I have committed against You." He was silent for a moment, obviously having a private conversation with God.
When he was done, he placed his hand on the second, thicker book. In a clear voice, he spoke again: "And here, God, are your sins. Let's talk..."
Justice, justice shall we all pursue. <3 p="">3>
Gmar chatima tova.