“Who lives, who dies, who tells the story?”
We tell it over and over again. We read it in books. Sometimes it’s made into a bad movie. Then we read it again. But what possible relevance does it have to my life?
No I’m not talking about Torah. Well, I am. Of course. But I saw “Hamilton” last night, and it’s there, too…all of it. History,my history, our shared history, re-done, re-envisioned, re-imagined, re-cast, re-scored, re-ignited. And truly relevant.
The show was flawless. Layers upon layers upon meaning, hidden in layers, with some toe-tapping fun and humor scattered throughout. That man Miranda loves the English language, and he molds and shapes and stretches it into verbal sculpture, beautiful to behold. It’s breathtaking, and at the same time, breathes life into old tales.
What matters is telling the story in each generation, in the language of each generation, with enough shout-outs to the past to keep the connection alive. Midrash tells us that God gave us Torah in 70 languages, so that each person could understand it in their own way.
This weekend, we begin again with the Torah, Genesis, Bereshit, in the beginning. We know it, we’ve read it, we’ve seen it in bad movies, and all the characters will show up again in the grand play that is the Creation of the World. “All the world is a stage,…” and all that.
I love the chaos that came before the land and the sea. I love the “tohu v’vohu” that exists before existence. Before that spark of creation there was something already present – the swirling, noisy, messy , confusion from which order comes. God must have created the chaos, too, and then thought, “Well, that’s not working. I can do better. If I want this thing called Earth and Humanity to last, then I’d better sort things out.” God knew what the goal was, and looked around at the materials at hand, so to speak, and said, “Let’s get to work.”
If the goal is to keep a good idea going, then order must come from chaos. Jewish life is a verb, it’s not a feeling. To live is to do, and like any good idea, the essence must translate into action. For Hamilton and what became this astounding American experiment, we must do….vote, work for ideas, get involved. The founding fathers made order out of chaos, and we are still grappling, wrestling, playing out the grand vision.
The same is true for our own Jewish lives. Bereshit reminds us that where there is chaos, find the essence, the beauty, the core ….and go on to create something wondrous. Jewish life will be re-invented and re-formed if it is to be respected and recurring, and relevant. And as “Hamilton” teaches, sometimes we need to pay attention to voices that haven’t been heard in the narrative, look at them in a different light, add to the story, and add to the fabric that is our history….and our future.
Who lives, who dies, who tells the story. We are alive, we continue to tell the story. We begin again, “In the beginning, as God was creating the heavens and the earth….”