God is in the Punctuation

Loud, repetitive and transdimensional. One description for that which cannot be described. As good as any, I suppose. I mean you’ve got your Amens till you’re blue in the face. That one’s the carpenter’s finishing nail, the carpenter being the uman or craftsman. The Craftsman being You-Know-Who. Or you don’t. Who does? In any event, or to be more precise, in the particular event of the recitation of a blessing directed at Transdimensional Being, one nails it by chanting a loud “Amen” or an occasional “Amen selah” along with the rest of the thundering congregation. Dude![sic]. Game, set, punct! Then you’ve got your larger unit of punctuation, dividing prayer from prayer, movement from movement: sliding from morning blessings into Shacharit, from Pesukei d’Zimra to Kriat Shema, from Shacharit to Torah reading, etc. This requires a bit bigger punctuation. That’s why You-Know-Who made Kaddish. Yes, we earthlings say it, but who are we anyway? So you’ve got your Full Kaddish, your Half Kaddish, your Mourner’s Kaddish and your Kaddish d’Rabbanan. Line after line flowing with supernal praise, holy angels’ song, superlative upon superlative. All for what? To mark the passage from one sacred space to another, a speed bump for the speed daveners. Pretty soon we might slip into transdimensionality ourselves! 

Then along comes the Yomim Norim, Days of Awe, the peri-Deus—kind of like the moon’s perigee with respect to its trip around the earth or the earth’s perihelion vis-à-vis the sun—of our year-long orbit around Transdimensional Being, the High Holy Days. So of course I noticed the punctuation. It was hard to miss. The big extension of the davenen for Rosh HaShanah is the Musaf Amidah, and the overarching punctuation delineating that supernal landscape is the blowing of the shofar. Of the three sections of the Musaf service—Malchuyot, Zichronot and Shofarot—it is the last that is the most purely ecstatic. The Redemption, the final return of finite being to Transdimensional Being. Who wouldn’t get excited? But that message is peppered liberally throughout the other two sections as punctuation between passages. Crank it all the way up to eleven! Or however many blessings you count along the way. I didn’t check. The Zen roshi was busy bopping my eardrums with the honking reminder, “Stop your mundane monkey mind, this is where it’s at!” Heavy traffic on the supernal highway, better lean on that horn.

And just when I was resting on my transdimensional laurels a buddy of mine points out that next stop on the highway to heaven is Yom Kippur where the punctuation gets really dense and complicated. The Thirteen Frickin’ Attributes of Mercy! Over and over and over. It couldn’t be more in your face. A full thrashin’ with compassion, puts the beaut in attributes. There we are with Moshe Rabbeinu standing in the cleft in the rock catching a draft from the hindmost parts of Transdimensional Being itself. We are there, my brothers and sisters of the tribe! Then the gobsmacking cadenza at the ending running from the Shema, including the muttered bit said out loud, to seven repetitions of Adonai Hu HaElohim and the final soul-splitting Tekiah Gedolah! As punctuation it would look something like this: (*#(*^%*&!(*@_@_$^@&:”:”:”+_+_(,./;’()*&%^%$#!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You get what I’m not saying. So in the end, if you find yourself snoozing over the endless devilish details of the ultra-lengthy High Holiday services, look to the in-between spaces. And just remember one thing: God is in the punctuation. Amen selah.

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About the Author
Michael Diamond is a writer based in the Washington, DC area. He practices psychiatry there and is a doctor of medical qigong. He has published verse, fiction and translation in Andrei Codrescu’s journal, The Exquisite Corpse; in the journal Shirim courtesy of Dryad Press; in the online journal for Akashic Press; in New Mexico Review and in The Journal of the American Medical Association. He lives in the suburbs with his wife, an artist and illuminator of Hebrew manuscripts, their dog, two cats, a cockatiel named Peaches and a tank of hyperactive fish. He has had a strong interest in Torah since first exposed to traditional stories as a child. Over the course of his life he has run the gamut of spiritual exploration of many world traditions of meditation and mythology. For the last several decades he has landed squarely in the traditional Jewish world. His writing is informed by all of this experience, by his curiosity about today's world and by his desire to mine the Jewish experience for its hidden and revealed wisdom. Torah Obscura, a glimpse of an otherwise invisible world afforded by a small aperture for light. All materials herein copyright © 2018 Michael S. Diamond. All rights reserved.
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