Thursday, May 24, 2012
Sermon (GBE2 53) (and now, Blogophilia 29.7)
““…Or do you have comfort and the love of comfort?” What is Gibran saying here? Isn’t he accusing the people of Orphalese, and in a larger sense, modern society of sloth …”
The Rabbi droned on.His eyes heavy, Jerry wasn’t sure why he was here in the first place. The last time he darkened a Temple was for his Bar Mitzvah. His mother forced him to go to class and he would promptly fall asleep. Traditions and rules were a joke on other people and didn’t apply to him. The ruler would tap him on the shoulder and the huge beard with beady eyes would glare down at him. He was shocked that he found his Yarmulke, and it still sort of fit. Hope the congregation is color blind.
All he knew was 24 hours ago; he was in the Grady Hospital emergency room watching the docs work on Martha. She had collapsed in his arms while they were walking in park. In the prime of her life, he thought. And now she is in ICU with tubes sticking out this way and that. Clots, they said, in her lungs and maybe one in the brain. The scans were inconclusive, only time would tell. There was a delay in getting the meds, since Jerry wasn’t her husband. Luckily her father was the one that picked up the phone.and he immediately said yes. They weren’t completely sure, but they think they got them broke up in time.
The hospital staff was efficient, he had to admit that. And they were pretty compassionate, too. Even though he wasn’t the legal next of kin, they allowed him to stay with her and kept him apprised of Martha’s condition. One of the Chaplains came by while he waited. Nice guy for a Goy. He listened and understood his concerns, and had suggested finding shelter when the cold rain came. Jerry knew it was time to go back. Martha had been his friend, confidant and sometimes lover since he moved to Atlanta 20 years ago. And here she might be dying, leaving him alone. Prayer, he guessed, couldn't hurt.
They had met when he was involved in a patent fight over the loom. A large textile machinery company had blatantly copied part of his design without so much as a contact. She was one of the junior lawyers on the project, and they hit it off. He admired her smarts and she seemed to put up with his long days at the office and snarky attitude. But she worked long hours herself. One thing led to another and they became a couple. They never shacked up, though. Martha didn’t want anger her folks. Jerry liked her old man, even though he took the traditions seriously, so they lived separate lives.
“…and what about you? Successful? Smug about it? Could it be killing your own passion for life…”
Is he still rambling? Memories of Beth-El Temple in Flatbush flashed before him. It always smelled like somebody had died in there and sometimes this was true. Older schmucks would be set up in the parlor downstairs where someone would sit Shiva for them. It was alright, since some of these guys didn’t have family in the states. But he always thought it was a pointless exercise. His Father made him do the duty a couple of times in preparation for his Bar Mitzvah. It was boring, but it was better than some of the other projects the Rabbi suggested.
All he knew was the place was boring, poor and he was going to be rich. And he figured it would be easier to do it without worrying about all the damn rules. Oh, he agreed with the ten main ones. They made sense. But all the picky rules of eating and dealing with outsiders? Nah.
“… and what about those in your home? Are they so tied up in material possessions…”
Jerry did what he needed to do in school, mediocre grades. He schlepped at the Law Firm his uncle hooked him up with. It was boring, but it did give him a feel for contracts and how to use them, not to mention giving him spending money. Spending his weekends tinkering with the loom he bought, he figured out how to make it produce three times material with only one attendant. The design sold and he ended up not finishing college.He moved south to be closer to most of his customers, and he found he liked Atlanta, the people were friendly and much more open minded than he expected. He bought a house and then a second, each time moving to a better neighborhood. The Shabbat’s and poverty of his past were a distant memory.
He had his Buckhead penthouse, his 500SL and a management staff that gave him the time to enjoy it. He thought of proposing to Martha here and there, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to be tied down. And for her part, Martha felt the same way. They were always loyal to each other, even after twenty years. They took trips. Martha even went to his Mother’s funeral when he couldn’t. And now it looked like she could be gone. And all this stuff. Stuff accumulated in the pursuit of success? It was just dust.
“…so is comfort your master? Maybe each of you should look inside yourself…”
It was so confusing. How everything could go bad so fast. Maybe it was time to go home. He almost didn’t notice his phone buzzing in his jacket. He saw the hospital’s number on the screen. Good thing he chose a seat near the side door. He slipped out into the lobby and took the call.
“Jerry?” The voice was a high and a little garbled. “Where are you?”
“Martha?! You’re awake?”
“Sure, Silly. It’s awful lonely here and I need someone to tuck me in. Could you come down?”
A weight came off Jerry’s shoulders. “I’ll be down in a few minutes.” He hung up and slipped back into the Sanctuary.
“…and remember that God himself is watching over your life. Give your prayers of Thanksgiving every day for that. Amen.”
And for the first of many days, Jerry did.
The quote is from "The Prophet": On Houses, Khalil Gibran. (c) 1923