I have been long silent in this medium. I have been blocked for too long. Fran Liebowitz once said that she does not have writer’s block, she has writer’s blockade. It is a suitable picture pressed in my frame of mind. I have felt blockaded with a sense of hopelessness. And hopelessness is a terrible disease. This week’s Torah potion (sic) depicts the reality of hopelessness as fiery serpents attacking the whining soul as the soul cries out that the slavery of hopelessness is better than the wilderness of struggle.
There are two words that come to my mind as I study this week’s Parasha. The first is Tikvah (תקוה), hope and the second is Emunah (אמונה) which means faith. In Hukat (חוקת), the name of our portion, both concepts are tied together as even within Moshe we see the cracks of weakened faith and hear the people crying out in bitter hopelessness.
We know both of these words well. At the end of a prayer we say Amen (אמן) from Emunah (אמונה), meaning ‘I do believe.’ Whenever I hear a truth or a hope, I will respond Amen (אמן). And there is the connection. Faith requires hope and hope requires faith. Hope, Tikvah (תקוה) is so important to the Jewish people that it is the name of the National Anthem of our spirit homeland, Israel. The two concepts are like water from the rock to a people struggling in the wilderness. They are like rain falling on the wildfires of the west. But they don’t come easily, I have discovered. Prayer is not enough, sitting back and waiting is not effective, paying lip service to these great ideals will not change anything. They require action.
Brave firefighters are out in over a hundred degree weather fighting the worst wildfires in the history of the west. Theirs are the actions of hope and faith. Open Space and Mountain Parks workers of Boulder are going out to protect people by redirecting them away from the dangerous areas. Theirs are the actions of hope and faith. I will be out there with them trying to be of help in some small way. And that small act of mine is one of the ways in which I am seeking to tear down my blockade.
It is a small step in rebuilding my hope and faith. I have many wonderful examples in my life of hope and faith that have recently pierced my shell to touch my soul. My daughter is a shining example to me. She has reached out to me and helped in my time of need, simply and graciously. My son is an example to me. He flew in from New York for the Boulder Jewish Festival to stand by my side and work with me. My wife is an example to me in her steadfast belief, her faith in humanity and in the G-ding process that she mirrors in her Jewing.
And so the words hope and faith, Tikvah (תקוה) and Emunah (אמונה) come to mind. This morning I woke up playing with those words in my head. I began playing the Gematria game, adding up the letters to see if I could find in myself a deeper meaning. Tikvah (תקוה) adds up to 511. Emunah (אמונה) adds up to 102. When I added them together I got 613. That pointed me to the word Mitzvot (מצוות) for according to Jewish tradition, there are 613 Mitzvot (מצוות). What is a Mitzvah (מצווה)? The surface, colloquial meaning is ‘good deed.’ More accurately it means ‘commandment.’ But more deeply it means ‘connection.’ When we make a connection with each other, with our planet, with our G, with our deepest self, hope blossoms and faith blooms. The Gematria game watered that ideal and shed light on it for me. It is 0613 on Friday June 29, 2012 which corresponds to the fifth day of Tammuz 5762 and I am beginning to reawaken. I am beginning again to have faith that our country is reawakening to its mission of being responsible to and for its people. And I am beginning again to have hope that the sacred connections in all of us will grow stronger. And I am beginning to believe that I am ready to continue the wilderness struggle of Tikvah and Emunah.