Not so long ago, I started to be concerned that I was becoming a little “too weird” with my affinity for ascribing deep meaning to coincidences that I notice, but that others might see as trivial. But then two weeks ago, when I unexpectedly found myself in an out-of-the-way bookstore, I ran across a book that I’d never heard of before: Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s “The Earth is the Lord’s: The Inner World of the Jew in Eastern Europe.” After reading about half of the book, I’ve come to understand that I’m not so much “weird” as living in the wrong generation!!
Once upon a time, in Eastern Europe, there was a place where people like me were the rule, not the exception:
They were sure that everything hinted at something transcendent, that what was apparent to the mind is but a thin surface of the undisclosed, and they often preferred to gain a foothold on the brink of the deep even at the price of leaving the solid ground of the superficial. . . . Nothing could be taken literally, neither Scripture nor nature. . . . A Biblical word, a custom or a saying, was thought to be crammed with a multiplicity of meaning. The plain was too shallow to be true. Only the mystery was plausible . . . .
Heschel, The Earth is the Lord’s, pp. 56-7.
I think it must have been amazingly wonderful to be surrounded by a community of people looking for (and finding!!!) invisible connection, interesting coincidences, and secret meaning that was hidden all around, including in Hebrew words. But I also recognize that I don’t so much want to have lived in a place and time where people killed Jews in State-sponsored massacres! So I can’t be sorry that I live in the here and now.
Instead, I’ll just keep looking for other souls like Andy (my morning prayer and study partner) and our Rabbi, who paired Andy and me as study partners nearly a decade ago. We can share moments of connection and hidden meaning with one another, and we can bring apparent contradictions to one another, whether from a text one of us is studying or from real life, to talk about until we find a way to see consistency underlying the apparent contradiction. And then, G-d willing, all of us from this generation can share a study table with some of those Jews from Eastern Europe in “the giant library in the sky” . . .
That IS what everyone else thinks Heaven will be, right??? A huge library that contains every book ever written, and we will have the ability to read and understand every language in which the books were written, and there will be comfortable chairs at tables for eight, where we can sit for “days,” discussing how every book ever written, in every language, on every continent, and from every generation, somehow fits together, because each and every one of us, even if some of us take longer than others to arrive, we are all headed toward the same place . . .
. . Unity . . . with each other and in The One . . .