Aryeh Ben David

Dancing with God

God, will you dance with me?

That might be the most ridiculous, inane, and absurd thought
that has ever crossed my mind. I’m embarrassed to look at it
Can I take it back? Can I unthink it? Why did I say it?
I’m looking at that line again and beginning to unravel
what spontaneously burst out of me.
I want more than an intellectual relationship with God. I
want more than an emotional relationship with God. I want a
full experience.
I want an experience of the past, present, and future; of
me and us and all of us. I want to be part of the collective
And I want my private dance too.
Sometimes I wonder if I am religious or spiritual.
My religious voice talks of the big picture: family,
community, and nation. Of the past and the future, of
tradition and hope. My spiritual voice is very intimate. It
is personal, private, and brutally honest. It focuses on the
present, a string of individual moments.
When my religious life does not hear my spiritual voice,
it seems as if it is just being dutiful. When my spiritual life
is not working with my religious side, it seems as if I’m just
following myself.
It is really hard, most of the time, to hear both of these
voices, to invite them to listen to each other. Most often they
seem to be quibbling, negating, and even insulting each other.
Can these two voices live together? Sing together? Is there
a dance for that?
God, that’s the dance I want.
God, will you dance with me?
The poet Hafiz says:
God and I have become like two giant fat people
living in a tiny boat.
We keep bumping into each other and laughing.
I want to turn the bumping and laughing into a dance. A
never-ending dance.
What kind of dance would it be? Not ballet, waltz, or
foxtrot. Not a dance where I’d need to remember the steps
and think a lot. I don’t want to overthink our dance.
What kind of music would play? Maybe shir hashirim
poetic, flowing, touching but not touching. Melodic. Swift.
Or maybe Beethoven—movements that crescendo, gentle
violins and crashing cymbals.
My family has always said I am a terrible dancer. Clumsy.
God, could you handle that?
How do I learn to dance with God? Is there a studio for
this? Who can teach me?
Or do I need to learn by myself? Dancing with God means not dancing alone. Responding to
the presence of an “other.” Always looking and listening for
that mysterious “other.”
Sometimes leading, sometimes following. Sometimes
stepping on each other’s toes.
Every life is set to its own music.
Prayer is hearing the music of my life.
A prayerful life is dancing with God.
Excerpted from the author’s new book, Prayers of the Lost and Found
About the Author
Aryeh Ben David founded Ayeka: Center for Soulful Education in 2008. Ayeka educates rabbis, teachers, and professionals to bring Jewish wisdom from our minds to our hearts to our souls and into our lives. He recently published: The Secret of Love - A Glimpse into the Mystical Wisdom of Rav Kook. He lives in Efrat with his wife, Sandra.