Thursday, May 23, 2019 -
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Windows

IT is September again. And there goes that tinged golden light that shines like an amber halo as it can only in the fall, in September. It is Yom Kippur again and I am not ready!

I never feel quite ready, and especially as the day draws to a close, at ne’ilah, the “locking.” I feel an anxiety, an urgency in my prayer while in the throes of ne’ilah. I never want the day to end.

But then, there is that light that comes with these days. It makes me think of the light streaming from a window, like the chalonei raki’a, heaven’s windows, with the sun breaking forth through them — an image we invoke in the Sabbath morning davening of shacharit.

It washes over me with a feeling of warmth and sunshine, like G-d is watching out for me, as though He sees me through these windows of heaven, peeking through the lattices and apertures that the Song of Songs so poetically evokes.

A window is an opening. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are openings. There are big plans for us. For you and me. For the whole universe. The Days of Awe open to all that. We feel closer, but really it is but a narrow opening. A sliver of light streaming through a window. How much do we not know! How much do we not understand!

AS we stand looking through a window, we watch people go by. We see things.

When he stood by the window. Abimelech saw through Isaac’s deception of representing Rebeccah as his sister, instead of the truth of his relationship to her as his wife. Standing by the window, Abimelech caught a moment pass between Isaac and Rebecca and he knows. The light of the window, its perspective, reveals the truth to him with clarity. Although he is standing apart, away from them, the window bridges the distance from what Abimelech was blind to before, and shows him Isaac’s true relationship with his beloved wife, Rebecca.

IN Tanach we see three women watching from the window.

They are anxious scenes. Tense waitings. Waiting . . . for the return of a beloved, or for a son to return from war.

With each of these women, the mothers of Sisera, of Michal and of Jezebel, although they and their circumstances are so very different, they are met with a disappointing, a sad or a heartbreaking conclusion to their anxious anticipation by the window.

Even with the amazing womanliness of Michal, daughter of King Saul and wife of King David, it is at the very least a bittersweet meeting between her and King David, if not a tragic one. From this particular time when Michal watches out the window for David to return from war, Michal’s fate is sealed as the wife of King David who does not inherit his kingdom and is not blessed with his heir.

Through the light of this window she stands by, and this highlights the contrast between how different the core of David’s and Michal’s personalities are, of ultimately how misunderstood David is to Michal.

It is a painful view of their holy relationship as seen from the view of this particular window.

And it is particularly sad, because it is this very window that Michal stands by alone, watching her husband, David King of Israel, to her mind dance uninhibitedly, making a fool of himself. For the last time we saw Michal at this very window she was together with David.

And this window is the instrument with which Michal bravely and courageously — yet tragically —  defied her own father and risked everything to help David escape Saul’s wrath, for through this very window she lowered David by a rope, just in the nick of time. Michal, by this window, saved David’s life.

But now, this window stands as a symbol of what ultimately separates them, forever.

We meet another escape by the lowering of a rope from a window, just as the Jewish people are about to enter the land of Israel.

As a repayment to Rachav’s kindness to the two spies who were sent by Joshua to scout out the land in order to plan a strategic conquest of Jericho, Rachav and her family are spared from the total destruction and annihilation of the city.

When all the gates are closed, when all the doors are locked, it is the window that opens with a scarlet thread stretching below that is the escape for Rachav from being trapped by death — to life.

Rachav’s act of kindness is what saves her and her family, but it is the window’s opening which embodies the reward for her kindness. It is the open window that is the conduit for her redemption.

THE wisdom inherent in looking through the window is highlighted in the Book of Proverbs.

The scripture guides us to bind and inscribe the Torah on the “tablet of our hearts,” to appreciate and internalize Torah wisdom with the clarity of the relationship one has  toward a sister, a relationship that is unique with a special loyalty and boundary: “Say to wisdom, thou art my sister.”

Then this teaching is followed by its contrast as the invisible narrator is now turned into a viewer, watching the catastrophic consequences of deviating from this teaching played out in the twilight street before the eyes, below the window.

When he was closed in by the storm flood, it was the one window in Noah’s ark that was his connection, his link to the destruction taking place outside.

As protected as Noah was, the window, if only symbolically, served as the opening for him to observe the destruction of the flood, to be aware of it, not be severed from the meaning of it all around him, though he was protected from it.

In the book of Daniel, written in Aramaic, the word window is written as “openings.”

Daniel’s windows in his chamber are not simply open. They are open toward Jerusalem. It is at these windows where Daniel kneels upon his knees and prays three times daily.

It is the vision of Daniel kneeling and praying and supplicating before G-d with the windows open wide toward Jerusalem that we read about just before he is sentenced to the decree of entering the infamous lion’s den.

It is this powerful last image before he enters the lion’s den, of Daniel kneeling and supplicating to G-d, toward Jerusalem, that we immediately think of and link to the  miraculous reversal of the decree, to Daniel’s mystical escape from that caged, beastly, deathly den.

SO it is Yom Kippur again. As the rabbinic saying goes, in these days we are “t’luyim v’omdim,” suspended between a place of life and the possibility of death, heaven forbid. We are dangling in the balance.

But like Daniel, we each have a window.

We each can open our window far and wide, inscribe wisdom and prayer on the “tablet of our hearts,”  and if only for a moment open it to glimpse and face our Jerusalem.

Between here and there, if we brave the window and open its glass to let our light out, even just a bit, perhaps the apertures of G-d’s chalonei raki’a (windows of heaven) and ours will meet and touch somewhere, be encountered and converge in the sunset of Yom Kippur.

Gemar chatima tova.

Copyright © 2010 by the Intermountain Jewish News



Tehilla R. Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park


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