Until time is done, b’sha’ah tovah

It seems only fair to warn you. It’s raining. And according to Ms. Myers and Ms. Briggs, who have repeatedly assessed me over the years, I’m an INFJ. So this blog could get bleak. But if you know me, then you know that my bleakness always comes with a side of optimism.

I woke up this morning thinking of boxcars. I thanked God for returning my soul to me and then thanked Him that I was not riding in a boxcar like an animal. I immediately regretted my tone. The prayer sounded a bit snide.

I blame the book I had read the day before. It led me to think of boxcars, which led to my snideness. Billy Pilgrim had ridden in a boxcar. In Slaughterhouse-Five Kurt Vonnegut described Pilgrim’s boxcar ride in Germany, along with other American POW’s, during WWII. At least their boxcars did not unload at a concentration camp.

Reading the book came after I had sat at a high school baseball game. The field is adjacent to railroad tracks. A train came by during the game. As usual, when I see a train, I cussed at it. I can’t see one without thinking of who the trains in Germany carried. So in my mind, all trains somehow share in that transgression.

I am 48. I am late in discovering Kurt Vonnegut. He did not make my high school reading list. Even if he had, I doubt I would have paid much attention to him. My attention in high school was on basketball and boys. Sometimes in reverse order.

I have a boy now, who plays basketball. He also plays a game called Destiny on his PlayStation. He loves the game. I admit, I felt a little honored when he called me into his inner sanctum the other day, a.k.a. his bedroom, and asked me to watch him play Destiny for awhile. I happily obliged.

The game has a certain poetry to it. Lots of good guys killing bad guys. Poetic. Describing one of the characters, the narrator said, “The Guardians have come unstuck in time.” Of course I latched onto that. I liked the sound of it. (I edited it a bit though. Shouldn’t it say, “Unstuck from time? Can something be unstuck while still in it?” But those kind of musings could lead to an entirely different blog post . . .)

Once I latch onto something, I can’t quit thinking about it. So I finally Googled the phrase, which led to Kurt Vonnegut, which led to Slaughterhouse-Five, which led to Billy Pilgrim, which led to boxcars, which led to a snarky prayer of thanksgiving upon awakening and not finding myself in a boxcar. Sigh. Like I said, I’m an INFJ.

And on rainy days, INFJ’s can tend to get a little more contemplative than usual. And very often the contemplation leads to somewhat melancholy thoughts. Okay, very melancholy thoughts, like “How could God let six million of His chosen people be lead like sheep to the slaughter? In boxcars?”

But another writer came to my rescue. My daughter. In my desk drawer, just waiting to be found on this rainy day, was an assignment that I had saved that she had written for her high school English class. The prompt for the assignment was to describe an occasion in her life that made her think of Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken.”

If you’ll indulge, this is what she wrote about a moment she had in Tzfat, Israel:

Two Roads Diverged

In Israel, I literally stood where “two roads diverged.” They “equally lay” on the ancient stones. It may not sound like a life-changing event, but deciding if my family and I should eat at a café along the narrow streets changed our lives. We had been trying to find this small café for about 30 minutes and we thought about giving up, but we finally found it.

“I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence,” about the couple who owned the café and the things they told us about their lives. If my family and I had turned around and given up, I never would have heard about life from that beautiful couple.

What did this beautiful couple divulge to her about life as they poured our coffee? They told of their meeting, which led to marriage, which led to aliyah, which led to owning a café in Tzfat, which led to pouring wisdom and encouragement into our souls. Though they knew of each other when they went to the same high school, it was not until later that they met and fell in love. The wife ended the story with the phrase, b’sha’ah tovah – in the right or good hour. A reassuring reminder that everything happens exactly when it is supposed to. It has become my mantra.

Collective Israel became unstuck in time after crossing the Red Sea; everyone from the lowliest servant to Miriam and Moses. They saw everything for what it was from one end of history to the other. Linear time dissolved into circular “untime” as they lucidly sang the Song of Moses. They saw how their hardships fit into the complexity of a grand plan leading towards their redemption. For a few moments they were all-knowing prophets. For a few moments they embodied b’sha’ah tovah.

Which leads me back to present-day Israel. I wonder sometimes how you bear the brunt of all the hardships that are happening to you now and have happened throughout history. I wonder how you picked up the unfulfilled dreams and desires of six million kin and carried them as your own. I wonder at your resilience, your prosperity, your humor, your strength, your stamina, your faith, your life.

And I wonder if an underlying knowing that everything really does happen in the right hour is what keeps you going. I hope it does. I hope you know that, as much as the owners of the café in Tzfat do. And I hope you know how much you are admired for enduring time when time often seems out to get you.

It is written that a redemption greater than the Exodus will one day take place. Until then, I pray that you, the Jews, will have many moments of being unstuck in time. Moments of clarity and knowing that everything that is happening is leading to a greater good. And that you will catch yourself humming in the days leading up to when a new song, better than the Song of Moses, will be sung.  When time will be done.

About the Author
Camie Davis is a non-Jewish writer and advocate for Israel.