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You Were Only Waiting

You Were Only Waiting

For a long time, I carried around with me a very depressing mental image for the Beatles song "Blackbird". I would relate it here, but I've been told by enough people that it ruined their enjoyment of the song so I usually just keep it to myself.

Not that my mental image inhibited my own love of the song. I took a fond, if somewhat morbidly melancholy, pleasure in singing it and hearing it performed. But it was never a happy song.

Then, when my son Joram (who is now 10) was a baby we had this routine. He was hard to put to sleep, so we would rock in the chair and I would pat his back. With significant force. No namby-pamby girly-man taps for him. He would only settle down if you gave him room-echoing "whomps" with your whole hand. And it wasn't that slow, heartbeat type rhythm that seems so soothing. Joram preferred a medium-to-fast beat. So there I am, pounding out a steady rhythm and rocking him to sleep when I realized:

(pat pat pat pat)
Blackbird singin' in the dead of night
(pat pat pat pat)
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
(pat pat pat)
All your life
(pat pat pat)
You were only waiting for this moment to arrive

In that moment of discovery, several things came together for me and were resolved - my concern about having a son; the personal upheaval of that time - a job change, a country change, a new child; and so on. And above it all was the immediate and complete transformation of that song into something positive and hopeful. The lyrics took on new and very personal meaning, and I knew I would never hear it the same way again.

It is said that encounters with God (however you envision God) are transformative. Torah shows us this with the many name changes (Abram becomes Abraham, Sarai becomes Sarah, Jacob ("heel") becomes Israel ("God wrestler").) Upon meeting Moses, even God gets a name change (or at least the revealing of a name within the context of the Torah narrative).

What we understand from these episodes in Torah is that meeting God is transformative - once you've encountered the Divine, you cannot remain the same. By reverse logic, if you find yourself (inexplicably) transformed, that is evidence of an encounter with God.

In that instant of change for Joram and I, Shechinah (another name for God, meaning "her spirit which surrounds us") came into the room.

I think Mr. McCartney would be proud.

Leon Adato is a frequent contributor to RJ.org, blogs at The Edible Torah, and taught at The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Cleveland, Ohio.

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Published: 6/01/2011

Categories: Jewish Life, Music, Spirituality, Jewish Journeys, Reform Judaism
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