Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Shana Tova!

Last night at services, our rabbi made a really cool sermon on the "kingship" of G*d.  He pointed out that the Hebrew word for "king" - "melekh" - comes from the same root as "to walk" - "lalekhet".  Thus, the image is not that of a king sitting staidly on His throne, but rather the dynamic force permeating the Universe.

I thought about this, and then I thought about the preamble (hmm, "amble" = "walk"...) to most Jewish blessings:

"Barukh Ata Adonai Elokeinu Melekh Ha-Olam....."
Blessed are You YHWH our G*d King of the Universe...."

I usually put a mental comma after "Adonai", so that the second phrase is simply an expansion on Who G*d Is, but now I put in 2 commas, and also read "King" as "Dynamic Force":

"Barukh Ata, Adonai Elokeinu, Melekh Ha-Olam....."
Blessed are You, YHWH our G*d, Dynamic Force of the Universe...."

What's with "YHWH", by the way, you might be asking.  That is the unpronounceable Name of G*d, as it would appear (with the equivalent Hebrew letters Yud Heh Vav Heh) throughout the Torah.  Back in the days of the Temple, this name would be pronounced only once a year, on Yom Kippur (this year coming next Wednesday!) by the High Priest.  These days people substitute a variety of different names (such as "Adonai" = "My Lord") in its place.  But what that name actually IS, is the root of the verb "to be".  When we call G*d YHWH, we are referring to the Was/Is/Shall Be nature of the Universe.

So when we call G*d YHWH -- a constant Being -- we refer to Him as "our G*d", but when we call Him Melekh -- a dynamic Force -- it pertains to the Universe as a whole.   We have a free will -- we are dynamic -- so our relationship to G*d is as to an anchor ("Rock of ages").  The Universe does not -- so much is random! -- so there we need a reminder that G*d is there even in the randomness.

Another observation: The phrase "Adonai Elokeinu" is cast in the plural, even though G*d is definitely One in the Jewish tradition!  This seems to say to me that each of us has an individual, separate relationship with G*d.


This morning, I saw Susanna Musser's latest update about Katie, the 10-year-old who was adopted last year from one of the worst institutions in Eastern Europe.  When she came home 10 months ago, she weighed just over 10 lbs., developmentally like a newborn but even weaker and with serious barriers to attachment.


Now, less than a year later, she is the size of a 4-year-old, learning to communicate both with sign language and speech, learning to crawl and walk with a walker, and so much more!   In her update, however, Susanna emphasizes that there is no persistent anger or grief about the effects of the years of neglect on this child:

Perhaps it was because we were very prepared for Katie as she was.  We really did fully accept the Katie Before as the child we would love and care for until she reached the end of her life.  We understood that she might not grow, gain any skills, or love us back.  There was so much joy in simply being allowed to have her as our daughter.

By being completely accepting of Katie as she was (static Being), the Musser family was able to take the actions needed to meet her needs.  However, in watching her progress and flourish,

Her care may be time-consuming, but she herself, the person who is Katie, only adds to our joy in life.
Katie’s progress is a source of celebration.  She keeps progressing, so we get to keep celebrating!

So here we see the pure joy of the Dynamic Force -- whatever progress is made, is cause for rejoicing.

Or, in other words,
"G*d grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the strength to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference".

1 comment:

  1. That's beautiful!

    "melech" from "lalechet" -- hmm, reminds me of "management by walking around"...

    I've always thought there was an interesting historical significance to the use of that word. Since Biblical times, Jews have referred to the Almighty as the "king of kings". I think of this every time I bow in synagogue, and remember the many Jews who suffered for their unwillingness to bow to any lesser power.

    No doubt this caused problems for Jews who, through the centuries, have lived as subjects of a (human) king. For me, as an American, this has particular resonance -- for I do not believe that some people were born to rule over others, nor do I believe that our ruler is set apart from other human beings. In America we have a President, who is a servant of the people, and no one bows to him.

    Judaism teaches us that, on Yom Kippur, everyone is answerable to fellow human beings for sins committed against them -- everyone, with no exceptions, be he king or candlemaker. Indeed, to the best of my recollection, of the many commandments (mitzvot) of how Jews are expected to treat others, none have any special dispensations for kings. As such, the words of Thomas Jefferson -- "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights" -- are very much in the Jewish tradition.


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