Prepare to be wowed by the depth and profundity of this:
When you get an itch in the middle of your back, G-d makes it so you can reach back and scratch it.
If you can't do that, G-d gives you a back scratcher to help you reach.
If you can't do that, G-d provides you with a trusted friend to scratch your back for you.
If you don't have that, G-d gives you relief with the notion that the itch will eventually subside.
What's that you say? Didn't G-d give you the itch in the first place?
I, and about eleven or twelve hundred other people, went to a Porcupine Tree show. (I promise this post is not really about Porcupine Tree.) It was Friday night, Sabbath eve, or Erev Shabbat. And this wasn't just any Shabbat, it was Shabbat Shuva, the Sabbath of Return or Sabbath of Penitence, which always falls between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
For some time, I have lamented letting go of much of my Jewish observance, but it was only recently I started to do anything about it. When it began, it was like a big file drawer was opened in my mind. I was having lots of religious/spiritual memories. Most notably, I could remember Hebrew songs. I remember songs in their entirety that I have not sung in years. I sing them to my kids at night; they love the sound of them even if they don't know what the words mean.
The opening band was King's X, a guitar-rock band that turned out to be a bit of crunchy fun. During their set I was thinking that although I'm not supposed to be here on the Sabbath, G-d is still here, at least in some capacity. So I started saying all the Friday night prayers I could remember. Then I tried to do a bit of teshuvah.
This is the time of year when we are meant to be seeking forgiveness for the wrongs we've done, but there are a number of chances to get it right. In order to improve yourself in the eyes of G-d and possibly transform the severity of whatever G-d has planned for you in the year to come, it is said that you must do teshuvah, tefillah, and tzedakah; repentance, prayer, and charity or good deeds. So I did what I could there in the midst of screaming guitars and pounding drums. I did feel the presence of G-d.
Recently, I was suffering from an ailment that causes a very uncomfortable symptom. (This is not strictly a female ailment, but I think it is more common in women.) The symptom seemed to continue even after I started the antibiotics, and I worried that maybe I had something more severe. I didn't so much pray, but thought to myself that if this symptom would go away, I could handle any of the usual life crap I typically complain about.
So G-d challenged me. He took the symptom away, but gave me a couple of emotionally challenging situations to deal with instead. The first of these was a bad thing, but one that I had some control and influence over.
Just after Rosh Hashanah, my son Einstein's asthma became exascerbated, and I took him to the emergency room. It turned out he had pneumonia. Of course I would have taken my discomfort over his. But I could comfort him, get him water, tell him how brave he was, advocate for him, make his stuffed animals do goofy things so that he'd laugh, rub his back until he slept. He's better now.
The PT set began. It seemed G-d was still there. I tried to listen and hear everything.
"But after a while
And the best thing that you can do
Is take whatever comes to you...."
The life crap, regular or unusual, can get you down. I am good at pulling myself out of a funk, but lately I feel myself getting pretty low. It has made "proper" teshuvah difficult. But you do what you can. There are methods, and rituals to follow, but it really all comes down to finding a way to have the presence of mind, and the desire.
"Silence is another way/To say the things I want to say." Maybe G-d is hearing me even when I'm not doing it right. Help me do it right, I thought. The next morning I could not get to synagogue, but I said the Sabbath morning prayers, with the Shabbat Shuvah bits added in, in my pajamas.
"Down in my soul you are..."
My left hand held on firmly to my right arm. I may have been in a crowd, but I was keeping myself company. Maybe forgiving myself.
A little teshuvah and a little tefillah in an unlikely place. I have the hand-stamp to prove it.