I was privileged to be a member of Linda Watskin’s Midrash writing group. Midrash is an ancient Jewish tradition which I would describe as thinking and writing about what happened “between the lines”in scripture. As we know the Bible is not like the Minutes of a meeting. Major details and interpretations are often missing, leaving the Rabbis and us to ponder questions like “What did Noah really say when God told him to build an arc, and furthermore, what did his wife say when Noah told her what he was going to do?” Midrash writing can take many forms and can be brief reflections or essays, or short stories or poetry or prayers.
Our assignment from Linda for the one I am going to read today was to select a scripture verse, one that left us with an unanswered question and then to select something “from afar.” It could be another Bible verse, or writing from another source, and we were not to spend too long selecting the second item. There did not need to be any obvious connection between the verses. We were to weave our way from the second verse to the initial verse…our own personal story was to be woven into the writing… and we were to find an answer in that weaving. As always her instructions included…”just begin and you will be surprised with how the mind takes flight and makes connections.” And I was surprised!
For me the concept of “an all powerful” God has always been a difficult one to understand. So I selected a verse from Psalm 68, which emphasizes the enormous power of God….
Awesome is God in his sanctuary, the God of Israel;
he gives power and strength to his people.
My verse from afar is a poem by Daniel Ladinsky, which is based on his interpretation of a Poem by a Persian writer, Hafiz. It is called Two Giant Fat People.
God and I have become like two giant
fat people living in a tiny boat.
We keep bumping into each other and
Here is my reflection:
Where can I meet this powerful God?
How do I find his sanctuary?
It is impossible.
It is too lofty, too strong,
too far away for me to reach.
The ancient Jews called on this God
in heroic terms.
They expected Him to:
shatter the heads of their enemies,
bring processions of musicians and princes,
frighten wild animals,
scatter the people who delight in war.
I cannot summon such powerful words.
My needs seem smaller,
Sometimes as I struggle I forget where to turn.
My image of God changes from day to day.
Up? Down? Or all around?
How can I be sure that I am reaching him?
Sometimes He does not feel so distant.
I’m not sure why He comes.
I did not call him in biblical tones.
I am surprised when He bumps into me.
He arrives without trumpets.
He brings a gift,
a glorious fall day,
a solution to a problem,
a decision for peace,
a joyous anthem,
And then I think that maybe God and I have been sharing this boat for a long time.