Memory is a funny thing and it is often not to be trusted. The thick cloud of history obscures the truth hidden behind that impenetrable wall of yesterday, and our thoughts and deeds and motivations become the ether and vapor we all fear will be our end as well. I was reminded of this while preparing my Drasha for Shabbos, when my son scampered into my office, bursting with enthusiasm and curiosity, with the single-minded goal of inquiring how it was possible for Hashem to have created both the Sun AND the Moon, and also to inform me that he no longer needs to listen to me because Hashem is in charge of everything and everybody, including his Abba. I smiled wanly and told him Hashem can create and do anything He wanted. Isn’t that what his Rebbe told him? He nodded enthusiastically and was on his way. He is young and unsullied, and did not yet comprehend the other obvious question: “Who made Hashem?” I long for him to ask that question to me, to see the kernel of reason and inquisitiveness that will hopefully one day lead to his emancipation. But did I tell him? Did I softly nudge him off this path? No. I kept him, like everyone else in my life, in the dark. And I die a little bit each time.
I don’t have a memory of when things suddenly became clear for me, when all my accumulated knowledge in Torah and Judaism and our way of life stopped making sense. There was no music montage of me abruptly understanding, of a Rabbi walking that lonely road when the proverbial light bulb goes on atop his head, akin to the masthead of this blog. No, it was slower than that. A death of faith from a thousand cuts of reason. But my memories, of my father answering my questions on His prowess, of doing the mitzvot and celebrating the chagim together as a family and a community, those are memories that have remained with me, memories that I cherish above almost all else, memories that have provided the colours and the contours of my life. So I do not ask my son about the origins of It all, nor do I pester him gently about what else his Rebbe said. No, I let him grow up and become part of the system, part of the process, and I watch despairingly each day, each month, each year as he grows into everything I fear he will become. Still, I am fortified by the resolve that he will make his own choices and reach his own conclusions, unaffected by some of my former colleagues who have become Rebbeim in yeshiva in Israel. And when he is ready, when his memory and a worldview are seemingly at odds and he can no longer withstand the cognitive dissonance, he will ask me again, perhaps ready to face that which I have long struggled with, and to confront the uncertainty and doubt that is at the core of what we are. We can then revisit that earlier conversation, and embrace, literally and figuratively, all that has kept us apart.