Sunday, January 25, 2009

772. HaMakom

My first thought: this is how the Israelites must have felt during the parting of the Red Sea. Or maybe just the ones in the back, after they saw that God really did come through as promised, and the walls of water would hold, and there was no safer place in the world than this narrow path between two pulsing, towering canyons.

On Friday evening during Kabbalat Shabbat, I sat downstairs with a Hevra Kadisha member who volunteers for the task of accompanying mourners as they walk into the sanctuary immediately following Lekha Dodi. We talked about everything and nothing for a half hour; I almost forgot that people were praying right above us. Then an usher came to tell us it was time, and we walked up the stairs and stood outside for a few minutes as everyone finished dancing and singing. ("Do you want to go back"? whispered the usher, concerned that I wasn't ready to witness such joy even from afar. But I was really happy to see happy people, although glad not to participate. This was the first time all week I had been able to hear music without cringing in pain.) The door opened, and I walked down the aisle to a seat up front as everyone stood and watched, and said

HaMakom yenahem ethem b'toch shar avay'lay Tzion v'Yerushalayim.
May the Omnipresent comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

HaMakom: "The Place." It seems to me that the translation should be more concrete than "Omnipresent"--an actual structure filled, rather than a Presence that fills. At that moment, as I walked in between walls of people, I knew that this room, together with everyone abiding within it, was God--the God of comfort, through everyone who waited, hugged, and fussed over me during that half hour, and my friends who had arranged to sit next to and in rows right behind me; and the God of my heritage, in those few seconds between the back of the sanctuary and my seat when I could almost hear an echo of this moment in all those other stories of exodus, pain, and redemption.

No comments: