By Eve Marko
Bernie’s going up the stairs, I pass him walking downstairs, and suddenly hear Phump!Instantly I turn around. “What happened?” “Nothing, I saw this gorgeous woman and I almost fell over.”
My brother gave me a book in Hebrew, teachings by and anecdotes about Rabbi Menachem Fruman, who passed away a few years ago. There is much to relate about Rabbi Fruman, whom we met on a few occasions: a settler rabbi, a lover of the Holy Land who insisted it belonged to God rather than to Jews or Muslims, who cultivated friendships with Muslim religious and political leaders, including the heads of the PLO and Hamas. He also believed deeply in the importance of couples, of intimate relationships. For this reason, whenever he was interviewed by a newspaper photographers liked to photograph him together with his wife, Hadassa. Once he said to the photographer: “Here’s a major scoop for you. You can take a picture of God and bring it back to the paper! Just point the camera here,” and he pointed to the space between him and his wife.
The Zohar, the basic text of Jewish Kabbalah, states that God isn’t to be found in the one person, but rather between two people. There’s myself, there’s my husband, and God is in the middle, in the emptiness between us, never in the one. No, not even in the Great Man. It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve meditated, how many kenshos (enlightenment experiences) and dai-kenshos (great enlightenment experiences) you’ve had, or even what you’ve done for the world. That’s not where God resides.
Often people ask me how my practice has helped me over these past six months since Bernie’s stroke. I think they’re asking the wrong question. The practice isn’t what I do early mornings when I go to my office, light a candle and sit. That’s the easiest, most comfy part of the day. The practice is when I then get up and return to the bedroom to ask Bernie how he’s doing, how he slept. To look again at what happened, his loss of weight, his unsteady but determined walk with cane, the splint on his right hand, the question in his eyes, the question in my eyes: What is this? What is this today?
A verse describes the absolute and the relative as two arrows that meet high in mid-air. Both the GM and I shoot arrows up in the air all the time, only these rarely meet. Sometimes they come close, sometimes one grazes the other sufficiently to cause a slight change in direction, and sometimes they’re ghosts in the night, and as I look at all that space in between I think of what the Zohar says: that’s not just any gap between two people who at times feel like strangers, that’s the abode of God. That empty space you’ve gnashed your teeth over, the one you’ve contemplated with frustration and wished to bridge more than anything in the world—that’s where God resides. So what’s there to cry about? The unknown abides in the very misunderstandings, confusion, and clash of wills and personalities that are part of our life. It’s as cozy as could be in the gap between need and fulfillment, desire and satisfaction. It’s right there in the gap between This is it and I don’t want this, I never wanted this, I wish this didn’t happen.
The one is easy. Sit long enough, hard enough, fast a little, give up the world, and you may get somewhere. Live closely with one human being—just one human being—and there, in the small scowl, the itch of discomfort and anxiety, or looking across a deep, unbridgeable gulf, right there is the true treasure.
Photo by Jadina Lilien