Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I want somebody who sees me. I think today was the first time in years I actually got anything out of synagogue.

The Rosh Hashanah Haftarah portion discusses Hannah's silent yet fervent prayer for children. She is constantly taunted by her rival, her husband's other wife Peninnah, because Peninnah has two sons while Hannah has none. In the machsor's commentary, the rabbis and scholars focus on Hannah's prayer and the interpretation of her actions. But what no one seems to notice is that Hannah needs to bear a son to obtain socio-political standing within the community. She is part of a polygamous society where the birth of a male son equals security. Why don't any scholars talk about that?

What I do like, however, is that there is the possibility for discussion. All of our texts are allegories, and we are supposed to interpret and contemplate them. The rabbi talked about Adam's reaction after Cain's trial for killing his brother. Because Cain owned up to his sin by repenting, he was awarded clemency. Adam didn't do this. Adam could not say "Hineni"--Here I am. This is what Abraham says when he is called upon to sacrifice Isaac, and it is what Cain does when he repents. It is our obligation to follow Teshuvah, to say Hineni. And what does Hineni mean? What does it mean to say, "Here I am?"

I don't want to spend too much more time philosophizing on this. I don't want to take myself so seriously as to actually think I have an answer for any of these questions. But these thoughts make me go to a quiet place where it's just me, and I am humbled by the universe.

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