Random Musing Before Shabbat
Yom Kippur 5768
Run away! There are times I truly feel like I want to run away. Yet in this helter-skelter world of ours, where can one run? And do we all really have the freedom to just "run away?"
Running away can be a form of cowardice. It can also be a wise and strategic retreat. It can be a bold escape, or a spineless evasion.
When we are running away, do we know to where we are running? Does the destination matter? Perhaps, sometimes, it does. At other times, it’s only a matter of getting away from wherever we are, or whatever situation in which we have found ourselves.
Jonah ran away. Jonah ran away from G"d. Jonah knew perfectly well that, if he went to Nineveh, he would have no choice other than to proclaim G"d’s call for Nineveh to repent or be destroyed. Like all prophets, he can only say that which G"d tells him to say. Bilaam knew that. Joseph knew that. Jeremiah, Isaiah, Hosea, Amos and all the rest knew that as well. They can only preach and prophesy that which G"d desires them to preach or prophesy.
Who can blame Jonah. Who wants to be the bearer of such a message? It surely tends to make one unpopular, or a pariah. And so Jonah attempts to run away as far in the opposite direction as he possibly can from Nineveh. Did Jonah truly believe he could escape G"d’s reach? Like many others of his time (whenever that really was) did he still accept that gods could be localized?
Jonah did not escape from G"d. That’s no surprise. We have to at least give Jonah credit for being a man with some character, as he did indeed instruct the ships crew to throw him overboard when the sea was about to impose G"d’s displeasure on them. (Would G"d really have destroyed the ship and its crew just to make a point? And would G"d still have forced Jonah to carry out his assignment by providing a miraculous saving?) When Jonah went overboard, did he truly believe he was plunging to his death, or that he could swim his way to safety? Was he truly surprised when he was snapped up into the belly of a large fish which later spewed him on to dry land so that he might resume his journey to Nineveh?
Today, I feel like Jonah. Those of you who work as religious professionals (or religious semi-pros) can probably understand. This is one of those crazy years. My job is complicated by the fact that I not only serve the congregation as head of the religious school, but I am the accompanist and director for the choir, the go to person for setting up the sound system in the church’s Sanctuary, creating the Yizkor book, getting all the signs made and posted, keeping the website updated, leading tot HH Days services, and numerous "other responsibilities as assigned." This year, with the confluence of the Yamim Noraim and the High Holy Days, and their occurring so early in the year, things have been a little zoo-ey, and, needless to say, somewhat stressful.
(*-as a reminder, my congregation has shared space in a Presbyterian church for 44 years. Our regular worship space is not large enough for the High Holy Days crowd. We have religious school on Saturdays.)
There have been times recently when I have truly wanted to "run away." Those visions that some of you are getting in your head of me running away to frantic music, accompanied by the sound of cows being catapulted at me as I retreat, are not far from the reality. It is a very Pythonesque feeling. At least in the Broadway show, they get an intermission at this point. My intermission won’t come until after Simchat Torah. Those cows will keep being thrown at me – whether or not I run away.
Yet, like Jonah, I find I can’t run away. Unlike Jonah, I haven’t made a serious effort to do so, physically. Yet I have certainly tried to do so mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. In my case, I don’t want or need to run AWAY from G"d. I need to run TO G"d. I have to find that space where I can do the internal work that will lead me to true t’shuvah.
And so I do try to run away. I tell myself that the labor necessary to insure that our congregants have a meaningful Yom Kippur experience must come first. Yet G"d is calling on me to look inward, to prepare myself for Yom Kippur. Like the workaholic I am, I bury my head in my work and try to avoid G"d’s call.
It’s odd. Somehow, I feel that I should want to run away from the physical efforts and tasks. Instead, I’m trying to run away from G"d. What gives?
I don’t know what gives, but I do know what gives up. Me. I surrender, G"d. I can;t run away from you any longer. I can’t keep burying myself in the quotidian details of congregational life and my role as a servant of the congregation, working to insure that others experience the majesty and awe of these days.
I have work to do, but it’s not setting up microphones, or putting up signs, or cutting up materials I need for the Tot service tomorrow. Yes, that is all G"d’s work too, but now it is time for me to do G"d’s work inside myself.
So, for starters, I ask of you, my readers, to forgive me any wrong or hurt I may have caused you, whether inadvertently or deliberately.
I’m not running away any more. Now I am running home.
Shabbat Shalom, Tzom Qal and G’mar Tov,
©2007 by Adrian A. Durlester