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Being Jeremiah, Being Anatiya

June 04, 2009
I was a student rabbi when I started writing about Jeremiah and Anatiya, and I continued developing their journey together after I became ordained. Looking back, I realize that at different times in my life I identify with one or the other more.

 

At first, as a student, I identified with Anatiya. I was so passionate about the subjects in which I immersed myself, the holy texts I was studying day and night. I was enamored by the prophets, especially Jeremiah. I wanted to adhere myself to such a towering figure, in part to learn as disciple, in part to be that close to Source, to Voice, to God, and in part, quite honestly, to be saved. Jeremiah to me was a protection, like a living magical amulet he absorbed the furious hailstorm from heaven and draw into his eyes all the uncleanliness and transgression he witnessed. I imagined curling up by his feet like Ruth on the threshing floor, and being safe.

 

I also identified with Anatiya in that I was drawn to the idea of her singular mission, which was simply to love and to soothe the scapegoat of mankind. To play quiet nurse, but in such a way that the gentle dressing of wounds served in some measure a larger redemption. As a student we often have these bold fantasies for ourselves.

 

Now having served as a rabbi for over ten years, sometimes I find myself identifying with Jeremiah. Not arrogantly as a prophet, heaven forbid, please don't misunderstand. Rather, I imagine Jeremiah's path determining that he live as if through glass. There was that wonderful story within The World According to Garp about a man who must wear gloves at all times lest he die. He ultimately removes the gloves because his desire to touch, to feel, overwhelms his fear of dying. Clergymembers officiate funerals, but not as mourners. They officiate weddings, but not as celebrants. They stand at the gateway of so many sacred moments, and usher others through -- and it is beautiful to witness -- and then we remain there, at the gate, fastened like a mezuza to the doorpost. When I feel this way I wonder if I perhaps created Anatiya for me, not for Jeremiah. To answer my own lonliness at times, someone to see past the white robe and ancient message, to the humanity beneath, and to love me for that and only that. Not for words, even if heaven-inspired, but for tears and flus and mistakes and coughing fits and tummy aches and the freckles on my arm that make the big-dipper and simply presence -- presence without poetry.

 

I think we all, at times, are or strive for one or the other. Sometimes the astronomer, and sometimes the whole sky. All our private dreams are written in scrolls, stored in celestial archives. May the best of yours be realized.  

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