Monday, September 5, 2011


God's love is huge, enormous, boundless, unfathomable, eternal.  How can one contain and confine even a perfume of it when the fragrance is meant, as it should, to be spread abroad so that it alights on everyone and do its work of fascinating, wondering, uplifting, nurturing, liberating?  There are as many ways as there are human beings in our planet endowed with inalienable gifts of communicating God's love, that part of it which is an attribute unique to one's self, so that we can know Him better, feel His presence even in the ugliest of moments, believe in His justifying goodness of peace and prosperity for everyone whom He loves equally and in a world He created generously.

Talents innate to each of us, and each of us are possessed of our own, when honed for utility make God's love communicable to everyone around and beyond.  A shining example of this is one of my professors of the French language.  I met her in one of the intermediate classes at Onondaga Community College (OCC) in Syracuse, New York where I first took French 101 knowing that I do not have the natural facility for it  but enrolled in it anyway because of a bet.  I was declaring that it was easy to get an A in America if one applies one's self accordingly and to prove this point I took the last class available for enrollment that semester and it so happened that we were having this conversation on the OCC campus.  And that spur of the moment recklessness surprised me in a million charming ways that enriched my life by it having a life of its own - the world opened up to me in various astonishing tangents which enabled acquaintances with unforgettable people.

Katy is a wonderful teacher with both prodigious talent for the expertise and equaled only by her love of propagating it.  By golly, if she's your teacher, you'll be speaking the language, brokenly perhaps but you will speak it.  So, it was not because I was good at it but that she was tireless in teaching it.  I continued to plug along even when I was in Indiana where I enrolled at Purdue University; even then, I would call her to help me with my homework so I can continue to capture that A.  I still have problems with the fluency but I know enough to carry on a conversation if I have chemistry with the other person.  Because communication is largely about compassion. So if two people are interested enough to learn about each other, they could successfully do so even with hand signals and body language.  The reverse is true, no amount of fluency can make adequate the lack of love.

And so that was how Mayim and I encountered each other, in that intimate space of mutual desire to learn of each other in the only language we can communicate with.  It was a fantastic moment for me.  She spoke five languages at least and none of them was English.  But one of them was French and because of my modicum of fluency I was able to bond with her in the most precious and in the most special way.  She was so generous in encouraging me by telling me  I was doing very well when I  knew there was so much to be desired in my fluency.  Nevertheless I put forth everything Katy taught me realizing that I carry her instruction and her essence with me wherever I go and whenever I speak that language.  And Mayim was a fabulous and a charismatic ranconteur, telling of how two weeks before Ari and Menuha met for the first time, she told him to go to the Qottel to pray for his life partner and she was exuberantly pleased that obviously the prayer was answered. Also she told with gleaming eyes of the accomplishments of her grand-children who are patently her pride and joy. She also lovingly shared a short version of her personal life.  Do you know, I had goose bumps all over while I was chatting with her and  even now as I recall it?  I cannot contain my happiness at being able to relate to her.  I would have missed  out on this wonderful grand dame of such singular elan if I did not speak the only language we could share.  Truly, God's love from all angles.


Soren, as in Kierkegaard, reaches from the 1800s with the intriguing concept that the only way to know our own truths is to make a leap of and to faith. There was a phase in my age of reason when I was unreasonably captivated by the physical appearance, the upbringing, the short life, the writings, the loss to oblivion and then the tardy posthumous acclaim of this religious and existential Lutheran philosopher from Denmark that all I did was read and read his work even if I did not entirely comprehend the bulk of it and even if I invariably ended up with a headache.  Perhaps because everything about him was weird, peculiar and convoluted, and absolutely sad that I was totally enraptured by him, but most especially by his thoughts which became fodder for my own  private philosophical musings.  Now those haunting abstractions return with ferocious alacrity as they clarify themselves to myself as I witness Ari's happiness at having found himself and Menuha, their promising new life together an organic testament to what might come of it when one makes that proverbial leap as he courageously did eight years ago.  It was indeed an investment of courage, paid with the currency of ceaseless and staunch prayers, against all the fears of his family and his friends when without much ado, so it seemed, he moved from the States to Chareidi Country.  I remembered I was beside myself when I heard of his bold move because I feared I was going to lose him on one front and his friendship on a second - first I feared, panicked in fact, for his physical safety and second, I feared that the differences wrought by our religious beliefs will ultimately dissolve our friendship.  I thank the Good God that those fears were for naught or all of these profound and religious encounters in Chareidi country would have been unfortunately precluded.  More importantly God protects us wherever we are.  As for our friendship which has passed naturally from his parents on its own effortlessly, unwilled by us, a gift from God, therefore our friendship is above our beliefs because it is of God and God is above everything.

My favorite understanding of FAITH is by a modern Christian mystic, the monk Thomas Merton who said, "Faith demands the renunciation of our own lights and our own prudence and our own wisdom and of our whole "self" in order to live in and by God's Spirit."  I knew that Ari was seeking and I knew that he was restless, but I am not privy to the myriad steps, big and small,  that brought him to his decision.  All I observe now is the outcome of that great leap that must have taken an audacious, a transcendent and an unqualified faith.  Menuha made similar remarkable decisions of faith in a parallel universe and then Ari's universe collided with hers.  Where would they be if they did not dare?  But they did!  And as  Saint Augustine foretold - they are now resting easy in God's arms, enjoying the discovering of each other, sharing their lives in prayer, in laughter, and in love.  When I see Ari's eyes twinkle when they behold Menuha, I exult in his worthiness of all those previous struggles.  And we who were witnesses to the sanctity of their wedding vows were opened to a whole new world of friendships and blessings beyond our ken.