This weekend I had the wonderful experience of hearing Dr. Susannah Heschel. She speaks as I imagine her father did, with warmth, humor, brilliance and a vulnerability that comes from not being afraid to be honest and human. She covered many topics, but what struck me most were her comments on "spiritual plagiarism"--her father's term for a belief system mired in tradition and unable to acknowledge that faith need not be static, but can evolve and grow in a changing world. She also spoke of the injunction of Hassidic masters, and her father, to celebrate moments of awe and draw upon those memories whenever possible. I thought of my experience praying at the singles retreat as I watched leaves dancing above the skylight. I'm back there every single time I read the Shema, as if magically teleporting through time and space:
If you will earnestly heed the mitzvot that I give you this day, to love the Lord your God and to serve God with all your heart and all your soul, then I will favor your land with rain at the proper season--rain in autumn and rain in spring--and you will have an ample harvest of grain and wine and oil.
In fact, it didn't rain at all at the retreat. And, at the time, I wasn't even sure these words had any relevance at all. I wonder why my brain associates that passage in particular with a day of bright sunlight. But I read the lines and experience astonishment as if brand new, a first moment of standing and praying that welcomed in a good and proper season and a rich harvest for my soul.