When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. — Wendell Berry
Last week I admit I felt an inkling of the despair that Berry described. I’m embarrassed to admit what I was doing when I felt despair. I was getting ready for a Passover seder that my husband and I were hosting. As I prepared for the seder, the sighs kept escaping. And no, the sighs weren’t because I was tired from working so hard cleaning my home. I’m not Jewish, so I don’t clean the chametz from my home like Jews do. We do have a seder, though, to commemorate and teach our children about the great miracles the G-d of Israel performed and still performs today. A wonderful, joyous occasion, no? So why did I feel a sense of despair?
Passover 2013 would be spent gathered around tables. And gathering around tables meant one thing. No Temple. Another year had passed and not only had Israel not offered the Korban Pesach, they also had not built the Temple. And quite frankly, the thought of another year passing without the Temple left me feeling despair.
The despair increased with the consideration that maybe Jews around the world would enjoy their seder too much. What if they enjoyed their seder so much that they wouldn’t notice the void of the missing Temple? What if in the contentment of their seders there was no room for discontentment over the missing Temple? In fact, what if they went so far as to dismiss the idea of the Temple? After all, the Temple would interrupt what they have come to enjoy, what they have learned to accept as normal. And even more than just what has become normal, what has become dear and sacred to them.
I sighed as I thought about this possibility. And I sighed as I realized again for the umpteenth time that I have no idea what I’m really longing for when I feel the void of the missing Temple. So how can I blame Jews for not acting upon a longing that perhaps is abstract and vague in their galut-adjusted lives. Besides, change is scary. But scarier still is the thought of one year after another passing and the world going on as is without the Temple.
Yes, these were the thoughts I had as I vacuumed and then as I made the chasoret. But I chastised myself quickly and remembered what I had heard about redemption. It comes in steps. Sometimes baby step and then, who knows, maybe in huge leaps and bounds. But it will come. So as I finished my preparations, I imagined what it would be like.
I imagined Jews becoming fed up with saying “Next year in Jerusalem!” I imagined them pushing back from the seder table with a new desire, a new determination, a madness really, which could only be consoled by bricks and mortar. And I imagined them sharing my despair. Of awakening in the night with a fright; frightened of what their lives and that of their children might become without a Temple to rebuild their lives around. I imagined them frightened that they might die without ever really living. I imagined them taxed with the forethought of grief of not experiencing the fullness of the Divine Presence in the Land of the living.
I imagined the shared DNA of David, Solomon, Ezra and Nehemiah awakening from its dormancy in their 21st century kin; awakening to action that would chase away all complacency. I imagined the national pride felt as Jews accepted their Divine mission and of the utter amazement as the task was completed and the House unveiled.
I imagined stories whispered to children on ships and in airplanes heading east, telling of the lost days when a seder around a table used to suffice. And I imagined the incredulous reaction of the children who walked faster as their feet hit the ground in a place marked 31° 30' N and 34° 45' E on a map. But they knew better. They knew they were at the Center of everything. I imagined the children’s brisk walk turning into a run as they felt the draw of the Divine Presence, the Heavenly magnet pulling their souls. I imagined their eyes seeing the magnificence of the structure, hearing the bleating of the lambs, and feeling the contentment of finally being home. I imagined them asking incredulously, “Why did you wait so long?”
As I sat at our seder table with my imaginings, I couldn't help but feel a bit hollow yet very hopeful. Hollow that the thoughts were not reality yet. But hopeful that the children asking their parents, "Why did you wait so long?" would forever replace the four seder questions asked far too long.