If you were cast away on an island with just one Jewish text for company, which would you choose?
This week Chava Fleming of Newcastle Reform shul selects: God Was In This Place and I, I Did Not Know by Rabbi Lawrence Kushner
Assuming I find a Tanach and a Talmud hidden away in the shipwrecked flotsam, my other choice has to be one that can help sustain me spiritually. I am drawn to novelists who have greatly changed my life: Elie Wiesel, Chaim Potok, Maggie Anton and Meir Shalev. I think then of the two Lawrences in my life: Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman and Rabbi Lawrence Kushner – but how to choose between them, and then among their works?
So let me consider the astonishing Hoffman’s My People’s Prayer Book series. Yes, from it I could take the Amidah or the Shema and its blessings. I love the scholarly introductions and the page set-out so reminiscent of our ancient teaching texts of the Talmud, recording voices of conversation.
On the desert island, I’ll be alone and can go back to the agricultural rhythms and the stars in the sky of our ancestors.
I can pray three times a day, bless every thing of beauty, learn about what I can and cannot eat. I will tune in totally to the creation and to healing and sustaining it and myself. What else would I do? My shelf of Jewish Lights Publishing draws me to Rabbi Kushner’s Honey From The Rock, his Book Of Words, his River Of Light. Perhaps I would choose a story volume, such as Invisible Lines Of Connection, but no, I want more than Midrash, although it is a work of great beauty.
I search in vain for his Book Of Letters, but it seems to be on permanent loan to a forgotten friend. So here is my choice: God Was In This Place and I, I Did Not Know. In it there are seven historic interpretations of Jacob’s dream.
It sings to me; it would be sufficient.