It is raining, well not quite rain, rather a mixture of rain and sleet, freezing rain I suppose. This means that the electrical grid will be stressed to its limits this evening as temperatures drop into the mid-twenties. Tomorrow, however, the forecast calls for temperatures in the mid to high forties and it is still January. Something is awfully wrong with the weather. Of course, I live in the United States, the land of denial (that’s right the Untied States not Egypt). Global climate change is only a mythological story told by liberals in order that they might spend more money and grow the size of our government or so goes the tale told by the denial group. But temperatures in the high forties and low fifties in January in Northern Illinois are simply not normal. Perhaps it is time to wake up and smell the roses (that may bloom in February if this keeps up) before the world my grandchildren inherit from us is destroyed.
That being said, after all it is good to rant once in a while, I spent an interesting weekend at the Chabad of Elgin, where the Rabbi and his wife hosted a Friday night dinner. The evening included both a Shabbat service, a dinner and Shabbat games played by a raucous group of folks attending this event. The food served featured the seven native fruits of Israel including: dates, figs, pomegranates, sesame seeds, olives, apples and oranges (if memory serves me correctly). The food was simply outstanding, rich in tradition with a modern presentation that left everyone there satisfied. The hit of the evening for me was a potato kuggel, a baked potato pudding, that swept me back nearly 60 years to my grandmother’s table and her outstanding potato kuggel. I even asked for the recipe it was that good.
Part of the evening was spent talking to one of the regular attendes at our weekly torah study group. We see each other on a week to week basis but never really get a chance to talk much. Spending time building this relationship was both interesting and enjoyable. It turns out that he is a “Jew by Choice” having converted to the religion I was born to. Because we come to the table with such different perspectives our conversation explored nuanced belief; how, for example, I could be so interested in religious texts while I simply do not believe in a God (or gods for that matter) and while no conclusion was reached, I found myself thinking more clearly than ever about the differences between belief and non-belief, between faith and rationality. I suppose that is a good thing but I cannot yet draw any conclusions about the conversation we engaged in.
At one point in the evening Rabbi Mendel told us an interesting tidbit of information. We were celebrating the holiday of Tu Bish’Vat, the festival of trees, a holiday in which Jews traditionally eat fruit. The holiday that celebrates the harvest and, by implication, fruit, Sukkot, doesn’t have a tradition of eating fruit at all. Curious. But, needless to say, he found a lesson in all that. Eating of fruit on Tu Bish’Vat symbolizes the potential in the fruit tree, the very reason for the existence of the trees in the first place. Celebrating by eating fruit on this holiday reminds us of all of the work to nurture the trees, to pull the weeds, water the orchard and so on. It reminds us of the purpose of nature harnessed. The harvest, on the other hand, the picking of the fruit, represents a period of dormancy that doesn’t require a special food to remind us that the seasons turn in order. Now these are stories I can understand. They are simple, almost folksy, reminders of an ethical life lived encapsulated by infinity. The stories lend purpose to an otherwise absurd life, a life in which purpose often eludes us.
One last thing, I am actually feeling quite giddy today. I spent the last two nights sleeping through the night, the first time since my prostatectomy. Not only that, but in the morning the only thing in my Depends for Men was the baby powder I put in before I went to bed. I take this as a sign that things are actually improving. I am pleased to report this progress as it gives me something to look forward to. Yea!!!