Making a Living: Hope
I showed up at 6:15. Hope is located across from a University Medical Center. It is not on the priority list of Medical Center resources.
I found my way to the room. There were about twenty individuals around two long tables placed lengthwise, some sitting and chatting, many sleeping or nodding, there was talk about medication and the joint and some other small talk about who didn’t show up that week.
“Here’s your speaker for this week.” That was my introduction.
I explained to them who I was.
“Are you a Jewish rabbi?” someone asked.
“Yes, I am a Jewish rabbi.”
The only woman at the table looked at me and with great solemnity and respect asked me:
“Do you read the Torah?”
“Yes,” I said with equal seriousness, “I read the Torah.”
So it began. I looked around the room and made a spot decision: I could give a lecture about spiritual health, my subject, or I could go for the center, the heart of the matter. What the heck, I thought.
I looked at the group and I began to explain the connection between breath and soul as found in the Hebrew Bible, Genesis chapter 2, verse 7 particularly. I stared at them and told them we are going to dive into the notion of soul, the deep sense of self that is Divine, the same in me as it is in you, and that nothing loftier than our breath is going to take us there. When you enter the realm of soul, I told them, nothing can hurt you.
“Now close your eyes,” I heard myself saying, and everyone closed their eyes and for the next ten to fifteen minutes I taught them how to enter the deep inner resource we call soul through our own breath, the breath that God breathed into us, and turned us all into living souls.
When we had finished, I sung a little and asked them gently to return to the room. Everyone had made the journey with me and the room was inhaling and exhaling in unison.
“Now—“ I said (I was improvising like crazy), “I am going to bless you,” and I blessed them with the words of the holy priests of the Temple in Jerusalem, I blessed them with physical and spiritual sustenance, then I translated, and a hush fell over the room when I finished. No one moved.
“Can you do that again?” one of the people cocked an eye open and asked.
“Yes,” I said. And I did it twice more.