Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Unpacking naivete

In my previous post, I said:

I believe that naivete has an important place in our lives, in moving us from an ugly world to a more attractive one. Naivete regarding other people, naivete regarding Gd, naivete regarding ourselves. Let me be a cynic all year long, but not now, not in these weeks.

Let me add a few explanatory sentences here:

Normally, I believe in confronting questions, even going looking for them. I would rather read Richard Dawkins or biblical criticism, encountering their challenges and dealing with them, rather than pretend they don't exist; it fits my temperament. I tend to click on links that tout the latest scientific discovery that seems to contradict Bereishit, or that provide evidence tying traits of the soul with hormones and neural circuitry.

As Rosh HaShanah approaches, though, I prefer to turn off all of that noise. Not because its questions are any less valid, but because this isn't the time for it. Elul, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur - these are like a marriage with Gd, a time when we are supposed to feel and express love. It's very hard to express love, to have a real bonding experience, while you're looking over your shoulder.

Hence my Rosh HaShanah derashah this year - naive in the extreme as it touted a relationship with Gd, while eliding the very real questions about just how much (or little) Gd wants that relationship. On Rosh HaShanah, I'm good with that.

As I explained it to a friend on Rosh HaShanah, I see the run-up through Elul like a second marriage. When a young couple, fresh out of school, go to the chuppah, they might have eyes only for each other, thinking the other is the best and the most attractive and the most ideal. But then imagine a couple entering a second marriage; they've seen the world, and they know that perfection is a myth and that their partner has warts and wrinkles in both body and personality. As they walk to the chuppah, though, they had better put the doubts and concerns out of their minds; to start off their marriage in a healthy way, they need that moment when they look at each other as though this is heaven, and there really is no one else in the world. Let the problems wait for another day.

That's my Elul. For these weeks, let me think that the people around me are wonderful. Let me believe that I can be wonderful. Let me trust, untrammeled, in a bond with my Creator, who watches and cares. Next week, I'll go back to wrestling with skepticism, but right now, I'm headed to the chuppah.

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