Posted on January 7, 2008

Now I must address the feeling I have been trying to avoid since the last post.

My mind wants to find easy origins: not enough sleep, going without Lunesta for one night, hormone changes, no view of the sun in the sky today. But none of these seem right because this is a pervasive, encompassing feeling. It led me to select certain books over others from the library this morning. It determined which articles and blogs I’ve read today. It has kept me from wanting to answer the phone when it rings, even when the caller is a friend.

I feel it in my shoulders and upper arms, like a physical longing for a hug or the need to cradle a baby. I feel it in my chest, tight and compressed like I know something is looming on the horizon but I can’t see it yet. I feel it in my stomach, a sort of dread as if I know the truth is going to be dragged out of me one way or another but it will ultimately be a relief. I feel it in my legs, wanting to run from this but knowing there is nowhere to go.

It isn’t a sadness, exactly, but I can feel tears nearby. It reminds me of the way I feel sometimes when I see a TV ad like this Hallmark commercial.

It isn’t depression. There is definitely hope there, not hopelessness.

It isn’t loss, I don’t think. I haven’t lost anything recently, big or small, but it does feel like I sometimes do when I remember someone close who is no longer living.

It isn’t gratitude, but there is an element of thankfulness. I read today something my rabbi wrote recently (not to me specifically) about accepting each other’s humanity–rabbis and congregants–and all that entails, and I was so overcome with this feeling that I momentarily felt weak.

It isn’t fear, but there’s definitely something there that I’m afraid of.

It is a feeling that flares up when I think about friendship and the sacrifices we make willingly–even eagerly–for those close to us. It is similar to how I feel when I hear about a police officer losing his life while protecting someone else.

It is how I sometimes feel–if I am lucky–in shul, davening and suddenly overcome with a need to convey through my prayers, Thank you, and I’m so sorry, and I miss you when I’m not paying attention.

I hear others around me, the whisper of silent prayers, and I know there are others here in pain and in mourning, those experiencing gratitude and relief and the realization of long-held dreams. And everyone has brought these parts of themselves to this one place on this one day to share, however privately or publicly, with G-d.

And I see glimpses of this humanity in action: one man trusting enough–or hurting enough–to weep openly and consoled by the man next to him. One woman surrounded by others, some of whom are offering comfort and others who are supporting her simply by being present. One exhausted mother relieved temporarily of her active children by a few teens who offered to help. One elder repsectfully helped to a seat. One rabbi passing by a congregant on his way to somewhere else, then stopping, returning to the congregant, and asking, are you okay?

I see this and I am humbled and moved beyond words. It occurs to me that this is what it’s all about. Whatever it is, it is present here, now.

My husband called me as I was writing this post and I answered the phone and the display said CONNECTING before I put it to my ear.

What I am feeling has something to do with connection. Something deeper than community, more complex than love. It is seeing that connection, knowing that connection, having experienced that connection and also the loss of it when I needed it. It is wanting a constancy of that connection. It is recognizing that I need this connection in my life and knowing all too well what it’s like to not feel it. It is hoping, struggling, craving, longing, physically and spiritually yearning.

I still don’t know exactly what I’m feeling. But apparently it has something to do with seeking G-d.


  1. corner point

    A friend just showed me your blog, and I’m very impressed…

    And very moved…


    I know so, so well the feeling you described in this post. For years I’ve tried to put it into words–for myself, for others–but I was never able to adequately verbalize it… Somehow feelings are so far from words…(which can be quite disheartening…but in a way I suppose it’s good, because if emotions were so describable and talk-about-able they wouldnt be so rich and emotional to us…….)

    I find that I have a hard time crying, even if I really need to get those tears out, unless I reference myself to something spiritual. Sad stories rarely make me tear, unless there was something deep and real about them. Hearing a resounding “amein, yehei shemai rabba” has the potential to make me burst out crying, but for some insane, crazy reason it took me months till I was able to cry about 9/11, even though my family was greatly affected by tragedy (and it was when I heard stories of those who saved or died tried to save others…)

    You described those emotions so well… In myself I call them “feeling full” for lack of a better understanding of them…
    My affect is always super intense–both positively and negatively– and in a way I love that because it makes me so much closer to Him and to those I interact with, but I just wish I could understand my feelings better, channel them better, utilize them better…

    It’s strange, because I just posted a poem I wrote on the same exact topic 2 days ago:

    I wonder if you’d relate…

    It makes me feel…connected, in a way…that there are others that know my feeling, understand me…

    Thank you…

  2. Keli Ata

    Sorry for the super long post. When I have trouble sleeping and am particularly anxious I write more than usual.

    All day I’ve been thinking about what you wrote regarding attachment being one-sided and connection a two-way communition.

    It didn’t hit me until I started to recharge my MP3 player. When it’s charging the MP3 player screen shows a tiny mp3 player and a computer and arrows going back and forth between the two.

    When the device isn’t working it’s attached to the computer but not recognized and nothing happens.

    You were right!

  3. Keli Ata

    Hi. Me again 🙂

    I found an article, From the Orchards of Jerusalem that says it way better than I can. Here’s a little excerpt:

    “Hatov ha’amiti hu had’veikus bo”- the true good is when man is joined to Hakadosh Baruch Hu- The Holy One Blessed be He. It means, among other things, when one’s mind is connected to Hashem. D’veikus- clinging. Thinking about Hashem. That’s the only real success in life. Hashem has two methods of urging people to think about Him. Inspiration and desperation. A moment in which you think about your Creator, not only are you fulfilling a very important precept of the Torah, you are winning the war.

    Let’s say you’re waiting for the traffic light to change. Instead of wasting your time, you’d like to do a mitsva. But not just a good custom or a rabbinical decree.

    You want to do a fat mitsva d’oraisah. A real mitsvas asei min hatorah- positive biblical command. So while you’re standing at the light, think about Hakadosh Baruch Hu. It’s no less than any other mitsva! As good as putting on tefillin! And if you think that Hashem created the world, even better. Like $700 tefillin! To think that He took us out of Egypt, ooooh, mehudar min hamhudar! The crème de la crème! $1000 tfillin! And it didn’t cost you a penny. This is not the slightest exaggeration.

    If you can think of Hakadosh Baruch Hu for two whole minutes… longer than any street light… mehudar min hamhudar min hamhudar!

    You’d be are a rarity among mankind. An exceptional person in this world. That’s if you did it once. And if you do it a number of times…? Better yet, every day. Better yet, during your prayers, actually thinking about Who you are supposed to be talking to… words cannot describe the reward. It would be a tremendous achievement.

    That is the tov amiti- the true good, the true success, says the Mesilas Yesharim. There are many good people in this world that are willing to do a lot of good things, but not once do they stop to think once about the Almighty.

    D’veikus. Clinging. Thinking. It is such a rare gem. Not everybody is granted the success to achieve it. You think that hearing it now it is in you’re pocket, Rav Miller asks? Lets see if you remember when we finish the lesson.

    All life’s circumstances, for better and worse, are to challenge us to stop and think about Hashem.

  4. Keli Ata

    I’m glad I could help a bit 🙂

    What you wrote about not being attached and disconnection was very interesting. The past few days I’ve been trying to read and understand more about d’veikus and I’ve gotten a variety of definitions, everything from connection to Hashem, attachment, and communion.

    But I agree with you. Attachment is a one-way thing, connection the coming together and from there…the relationships grow.

    It could well be a gradula progression from attachment to connection and ultimately communion with the Almighty. (okay, the word communion makes me uncomfortable because of its Christian connotation but that’s one of the words I’ve come across).

  5. Rivka

    Keli: thank you! I hadn’t thought about the word attachment, but you’re right, that fits too. I guess I kind of see attachment as a step on the way to connection, like attachment is sort of a one-way action and connection is mutual. Similarly detatchment is one side backing off–and not always a bad thing–but disconnect is more of a complete severance.

    Then again, every English major out there might disagree with me.

    Keli 2: I think having a regular place to sit and being connected are very much related!

  6. Keli Ata

    And if I can add something else, relating to your previous posts on having a regular seat at your shul–

    I think that could also be related to a need to connect more with Hashem in a way and your fellow Jews. It seems you were afraid of not having a place to sit in shul; of not being connected with the rest of the congregation. Which I know can be awful. To be or even feel shut off and disconnected especially in a religious setting…well, I’ve been there and I know it hurts.

    I don’t know. Maybe I am trying to make connections between the three posts that aren’t there. But it’s something to maybe think about.

  7. Keli Ata

    Rivka: This has to be one of the most beautiful posts I have read on d’veikus in quite a while. In fact, I tried to address the issue in a couple of posts of mine the past couple of days but they’re nowhere near as articulate and soulful as what you’ve written here.

    When we’re connected to Hashem it makes it easier to become attached and caring with others in our world. Like Jacob’s Ladder, the caring and connection goes back and forth–between heaven and earth.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say what a lovely and inspiring post you’ve written. Great job! Simply beautiful.

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