It wasn’t the question I laughed at, but what my son had on when he asked me the question. Looking down and seeing him in footie-pajamas while he asked, “Mom, if God stops existing, does that mean we stop existing too?” made me chuckle. He was four.
This was during his I-love-everything-about-space-and-the-universe-stage, which naturally led me to tell him about tzimtzum. (The teaching that since there was no room for anything to exist outside of God, He had to contract Himself to make room for conceptual space. Basically, the infinite had to allow space for the finite.) And to tell him that God is everything, as in EVERYTHING; we only exist as a part of Him. Believe it or not, I phrased it a way a four year-old could understand. Really.
Maybe conversations like that were why one of his teacher’s sent home a note one time that said, “I can tell that you talk to your son like he’s an adult.” (I think she meant that as a compliment.)
Fast-forward from footie-pajamas to a memory of my son several years later standing in Israel. It was one of those moments that all parents have when you ask yourself, “Did my kid grow a few inches overnight?”
His back was to me as he stood with his hands casually in his pockets while he waited in the courtyard of the small bed-and-breakfast we were staying at in Tzfat. For some reason he looked so much taller at that moment. And before I knew it a prayer rushed up from my heart to my lips for him and I said, “God, please let him always be a Zionist. Please help him to always chose to support Israel.”
It felt like a make-a-wish prayer. Like one of those times that if you had one thing you knew for sure would be answered, you would wish for that.
Perhaps it felt like a wish because the previous day an older Jewish couple had opened their homes to me and my family for Shabbat dinner. We were complete strangers to them, but they invited us into their home and let us sit at their table like we were family. Which seemed to be the normal hospitality mode for most Israelis.
The lady of the house was an attorney from Brooklyn, New York who had made aliyah with her husband who was a rabbi. During dinner she leaned in close and with a twinkle in her eye “cautioned” that one had to be very careful what she or he prayed for while in the mystical city of Tzfat. Because what one prayed for would most assuredly come to pass.
I rolled that sentiment around in my heart and head yet did not find a prayer coming to my lips until seeing my son stand there the next day. My prayer embodied a desperate desire for him to always stand on the side of Israel.
He is a teenager now. We talk about sports more that we talk about God. And although he’ll rush outside to see a beautiful sunset with me or even join me on the roof to watch a lunar eclipse, he is not that interested in space anymore or in existential conversations about God. But I think it is time for me to tell him one other thing that he could not exist without.
I need to tell him that if Israel ceases to exist, so to will he. All of us will.
I know that sounds dramatic. But that’s because it is. Israel is a lifeline for the world, both physically and spiritually. Israel is the island of hope in a world that seems to have gone mad. It is the defense against ideologies and regimes that want to destroy Jews and others who fit into the category of “the wrong faith.”
But most of all it is a beacon of light. It is not only a homeland for the Jews but a homeland for the very presence of God.
The prophet Isaiah foresaw a time when a gross darkness would cover the earth. Yet, to counter this darkness, light would shine from Israel. And nations and kings would walk by the brilliance of that light. How ironic that at the moment nations and kings are trying to extinguish that light.
It is taught that as Esther awaited the fate of herself and her people she prayed Psalm 22, asking, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? You are far from my salvation and the words of my moaning. My God, I call out by day and You do not reply.”
Israel seems to be engulfed at times by a gross darkness, especially since September of 2015. Weekly, if not daily, Jewish blood has been spilled at the hands of those who are still festering with the hatred of Haman.
But as in the days of Esther, deliverance will come. Darkness will be engulfed by light. Israel will survive. Her enemies will perish.
One of my favorite pastimes is to watch sporting events with my son. When we see a good play or watch our team win, we turn and look at each other with raised eyebrows, a bit of a crooked grin, and slight nod of our heads.
What a great moment it will be if we merit to be able to turn to each other with that same look of satisfaction as we see Israel win over her enemies once and for all. Godspeed to all of us living to see that day.