what can i tell her i’m reading?

The woman who I only see (or at least rarely see except) at the mikveh was once again there last night when I was the shomeret.  I knew that she would expect me to say some kind of wise statement, if not more, since this has become a habit.

A nice one, I think.

But could I bring the book that I really wanted, or would I bend to meet social expectations?

So maybe sometimes, social expectations do help us, even if we weren’t ready for the help.

Now that I think of it, I wrote about my two current book choices a bit ago, with my previous algorithm challenge to Amazon.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson


Now which one do you think I read there last night?

So when she asked me for my wisdom, I could tell her what I just had read, and I think it’s profound enough to pass on.

But, if I may (and I may, since I’m in charge of this and it is mostly mine), I will say that Jenny’s book is not exactly what you’d call light reading, either. Profound in its own bizarre way, and quite moving when you think about all the things she had to overcome and did with not much more than a sense of humor to guide her.

But I regress.

This is the background for what I told her that follows, from Mourning Under Glass: (p. 122)

In traditional discourse, the literal name of G0d features prominently.  God is often referred to euphemistically as “the Name,” since pronouncing the actual name of God is prohibited. The different names of God are held to be indicative of His various attributes, and a good portion of Jewish mysticism is devoted to studying the various names and their permutations. Some of the names of God are so ineffable that they were secretively passed down only to select individuals in each generation.

A name refers to something without actually being that thing. A name exists in the realm of language, in a community’s cultural connection to the real world. But words are are by definition only ephemeral ghosts of the reality to which they refer. The word “water,” no matter how brilliantly evoked in the most creative language, cannot compete iwth the direct apprehension you get of water when a bucketful is emptied onto your head. God the Creator is the most Real there can be, yet at the same time He is also the most intangible to His creations. Naming God or referring to God’s names is linguistically the closest one can get to God, while simultaneously serving as a reminder that this name-calling is not actually the Real thing. The names, so indicative as to be ineffable, is still just that–a name, and not God Himself. It is a marker of the presence of absence.

Here’s the section that I restated for her:

The call to sanctify God’s name by the mourner is an acknowledgment of this difficult state of absent presence. This is also the temporal framework of the kaddish. Its language points to the future. Together with his community, the mourner offers a prayer that recognizes the lack found in the present. G0d’s name will be magnified and sancitified–hopefully “speedily and soon”. Eventually, there “will be much peace from the heavens” and it will be God who “will make peace for us and all Israel.”

I will stop quoting here.

The absence is magnified.

I knew she would get that.


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