Abraham Joshua Heschel, Arlene Silberman, belief, Chick Silberman, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, God, Judaism, theology
“Judaism is a theology of the common deed, of the trivialities of life,” Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “dealing not so much with training for the exceptional as with management of the trivial. . . . The purpose seems to be to ennoble the common.”
In other words, Heschel was saying that it’s not the big things, the grand gestures, that are important. It’s not the face we show to the public, but the face we show to our family, friends, co-workers, ourselves. It’s how we handle the everyday stuff; making lunch for your kids in the morning, talking to friends on the phone, going to work, cleaning the bathroom, walking the dog.
My friend Charles (aka Chick) Silberman quoted this line by Heschel when we dedicated a Torah scroll at my synagogue in memory of his wife Arlene. He went on to talk about Arlene and how she ennobled both the common and the sacred. But what jumped out at me most was a line that Chick quoted from his son Rick’s eulogy for Arlene; Rick said that Arlene was engaged in a life-long struggle with a God who did not exist.
“A life-long struggle with a God who does not exist.” I think, though, that I’d like to think of my relationship with a God who doesn’t exit to be not so much a struggle as … well, perhaps as a dance. One of my professors in graduate school asked us to write analogies for our relationship with God. One student wrote that her relationship with God is similar to Ginger Rogers’ with Fred Astaire. She did everything he did, but backwards and in high heels. It wasn’t easy, but it was certainly worthwhile.
I still contend that I don’t believe in God, but I’m willing to be a part of the dance.
Roscoe George said:
You are not alone.. . .The adage “Seek and you shall find” is appropriate and sustains those who have the same feelings!
I remember that class and writing those analogies. If I recall, mine was a bit pantheistic sounding.