14 Shvat 5781 / Wednesday, January 27, 2021 | Torah Reading: Beshalah
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The Magic Elves    

The Magic Elves

It's not easy, especially for a Noahide, to find one's spiritual niche; But maybe Alice's imaginary dream community will someday become a reality...


One moment I imagine I would not enjoy were I an Orthodox rabbi, would be when non-Jews come looking to convert or to be part of the community.   When the rabbi has a sense that would be or could be problematic, I can imagine that would be an aggravating and sad conversation to have.  As painful as some of the intense pressures, very real-world pressures, may be that come with the job I think the letting someone down-ness of this particular task might never get easy.  How do you say to someone, “I’m sorry but I think I know what you are looking for, and you are barking up the wrong tree.  Super wrong.  Doesn’t that tree over there look great though?  Maybe that really lame tree, that I know you don’t want, that I don’t want either, is the tree for you.”  If someone is looking for their place and you know your place, your community, is most likely not that place and may never be that place, how do you let them down easy?  How do you send them back out into that uncomfortable world?  “Here’s a glass of water.  You thought you were home, but you aren’t.  Hope you find it.  There’s the door.”
It was very tough for me, at times, to find community that gave me that special feeling I was looking for.  The perfect community I was measuring my real life against just wasn’t materializing.  I was looking for a bunch of Orthodox people who would be very comfortable with my non-Jewish self.  They would totally understand that although I am not converted, I am enthralled by Orthodox learning.  That’s where my mind finds its zone.  You know that feeling when you are learning something fascinating and you kind of leave your body and float around in mental space, soaking up all of the thoughts and feelings swirling around you?  That’s heaven to me, that flying feeling where you just receive all of the input and put it through your computer, looking at thoughts and ideas from different angels.  And if you can discuss it with people who are also putting it through their computers and arriving at some other totally different place, that’s even more interesting.  In my imaginary community there would be tons of that going on.
What else?  Everyone would be pretty chilled out about the fact that everyone is in their own unique place spiritually.  So the spiritual competition would be kept to a minimum.  All historical context that could create tension would magically not be present in this perfect space.  Sure the Holocaust just happened.  But these people would know that anyone there with them, people like me, didn’t have anything to do with it and would never be a part of that problem, or any problem that even looks like that event in any way. 
And the practical stuff wouldn’t really be an issue either.  This place would be magically self-sustaining somehow.  It wouldn’t be expensive, and it would be clean and comfortable.  And open just when I need it to be to fit my busy schedule.  There would be little magic elves who do all the cleaning and who pay the electric bill and repave the parking lot and replace the tile floors and buy the new chairs and pay the rabbis with the giant families.  I could pay a little or a lot when I have it, but there would be no pressure.  I could keep going, but the appearance of magic elves is probably a signal to stop.  Magical elves who dance a little jig and say “Wala!”  - that’s what I needed.  And on some level, consciously or unconsciously, I was going to whine and feel let down until they appeared.
Once you hit your forties and the number on the other side is smaller than the number on the front side, you really don’t have time for such foolishness.  At forty-three, if I need some elves, I’ll eat a Keebler or read a book to my two-year-old. 
This year my life took some kind of midlife turn that was uncomfortable yet really necessary and rewarding too.  I went out a door, down a long and uncomfortable hallway, and stepped into another room.  It’s a beautiful room where I wish I didn’t feel so tired, but I love this room and the people who are in it with me.  They are my community, my peeps.  They are a quite diverse mix of people.  Some of them think my beliefs are absurd and as stupid as believing in magic elves.  Some of them believe in their own magic universe, from my perspective.  But I’ve got mine, they’ve got theirs, and there is no spiritual competition. 
So to the Jews and Non-Jews and Christians and Muslims and Sikhs and Bnei Noach and What-Have-Yous, who are lonely and who are looking for the shuls, church, synagogue, town, mosque, temple or whatever magic place you are looking for I guess I want to share that I have found a cool place by not forcing things so much.  So that might work for you too.  I don’t know. 
The motto of this crazy transitional year became at a certain point, “No flow, no go.”  The place where there is flow, is really that magic spiritual place I was looking for.  I could not find it before because I was out of the flow, ultimately.  And I got super exhausted, beleaguered, and frustrated trying to make it all flow when it just was not going to.  It was not a waste of time, I wouldn’t say that.  If you are learning, it’s not a waste.  And there were some really lovely people there who are in this room too.
I thought I needed to be around people who thought what I thought, for some period of time each week – not sure what that magic number was – in order to feel spiritually fulfilled.  So I kept trying to generate those places and create those minutes.  Turns out I really did not need to hang out with people who agree with me to get that magic feeling.  I’m not alone.  I have my faith.  I know what I believe.  My friends know what they believe, and ultimately only God knows where there is overlap and where there isn’t.  And I don’t really care how much overlap there is.  Maybe the person from whom I need to learn something is the person who barely shares a single belief with me.

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