This weekend I was in my happy place, singing with 75 of my closest friends at an annual program called Shabbat Shira held in the woods of Wisconsin. Held at the URJ’s camp Olin Sang Ruby Union Institute, this is the kind of magical space everyone should be able to have. A place to recharge. A place to renew old relationships and form new ones. It’s the kind of place where you see someone once a year and it’s as if you have never been apart. We sing, we laugh, we learn, we stretch. It is as judgment-free a space as you can find in these turbulent days before this election.
On Shabbat afternoon, Julie Silver’s workshop on the creative process gave us ways to express our ideas through painting and writing, through prompts and sharing. It was, with a paint brush in my hand that I thought about the morning’s parsha. Shira Kline, our Storytelling Maven for the morning, talked about Noah the man. Drained, ready to leave the ark, he opened the window and sent out a raven, and then a dove, to assess the status of the flood. The Torah repeats the word “vayish‘lach – and sent.” Sh’lach! He sent a messenger. Sh’lach! He sent a lifeline. Sh’lach! He needed hope that their would be life beyond the smelling ark.
As I sat and looked at my blank piece of paper, first with a paintbrush, and then with a pen in my hand, I couldn’t help thinking how our story moved so fast. Just last week we were reading about the creation of the earth and now this week, God is already talking about destroying it. How is it that we get from Noah to Abraham in just one parsha? Even though “Sh‘lach” and “Lech L’cha” have different roots, the there is an audible connection. We go through the building, the flood, the family separation, and the Tower of Babel which leads to the confusion and more separation. Were Adam and Eve and their lot, and now Noah and his lot just the trial run for the main story to come? And so I painted. And I wrote perhaps the first poem of my adult life.
How do we get from Sh‘lach to L‘cha?
The dove becomes the rainbow.
The rainbow brings confusion.
The confusion brings the journey.
The journey brings the adventure.
The adventure brings
The journey continues.
It seems to me that Noah and Abraham have much in common. They both reach a precipice and have the faith to keep them going. Noah may have built the ark to protect himself and his family, to take cover. But it was through the opening of the window and the “sh‘lach” that he took the leap into the future. He sent himself just as Abraham will in next week’s parsha. “Hineni,” Abraham will say. Here I am.
Today as a nation, we stand on a precipice. The day before the most important election of my lifetime. Whether we like it or not, we must open the window. We must answer the call to keep our country going on the right path. For me the choice is clear. To vote for the candidate that will keep us on the journey to freedom and equality. To vote for the candidate who already has the faith that we are great. To vote for the person who has always said “Hineni.” Here I am. Time and time again. Now it is our turn to open that window. Can we stand with the party of vision and kindness? Or will we succumb to the calls of hatred and bigotry? Hineni. Heed the call!