The tradition of my Fathers is an acceptance of a pre-existent reality. It may be hidden, but even obscured it is mysteriously active. The Thirty Six Righteous Ones opened my heart again. Then I realized I had been practicing all this time the acceptance that consciousness comes to us and that the reality beyond reality is the perimeter beyond which we cannot go. Except to live as a Righteous One.
Death is not a thing many people wish to converse about. One starts to speak on it and the companion glazes over as though shot through with curare,their eyes flutter momentarily, instigated by the indignity of such a shadowing, the departure is swift, and the speaker left only with the faint odour of their anxiety.
“Love is only surpassingly sweet when it is directed toward a mortal object and the secret of this sweetness is only defined by the bitterness of death.”
Franz Rosensweig wrote this beautiful sentence.
Now I understand how aging affects every part of me and how transient is existence
My mother´s mother died, her heart worn too thin, when my mother reached fourteen. My mother died at age ninety, died on the second week after her birthday. My mother always spoke of her mother, Pauline, my maternal grandmother, with great reverence. I have seen a photograph of Pauline perhaps a dozen times, always the same photograph, so that I have come to believe only one existed. Who can tell me now who Pauline was, what she knew, what she did that wore out her pretty thin heart. Pauline is gone. Who actually viewed her exhaustion, fueled with frustration as she tried to organize transport out of the Pale for distant cousins and neighbors as well as for her family? My mother has the tenuous existence of the memory I possess of her. Soon I will die and my mother Rose will have no one left who remembers her.
I used to believe in forever, but forever is too good to be true A A Milne
For I, who suffer a chronic, neurologic deterioration, sleep and its deprivation becomes the critical locus of an existential crisis. Deep in the black moments of the nocturnal wandering of sleep, one awakens in a moment and a choice arises-to sleep or not-that capriciously is not of our making. It becomes gradually clearer that the day is ours and the night is not. Sleep is god’s gift to us and in exchange we owe a gratitude we can only hope meets the largesse given us by the gift. What Rilke called the torn fabric of existence needs daily repair.
Given the frustrations and loss of functions wrought by age these present insurmountable impediment to any attainment of immortality. Even the inscription written by chisel on granite wears into oblivion. The tailor needs to refine technique and finesse in the tiny needle to hold the cloth intact. A terrible tremor seizes the withering limbs, their strength and architecture dissipate, frailty and enervation do not dispose themselves easily to mirth and contentment, and all, as the author of Ecclesiastes writes, is meaningless.
Even then the allure of vanity maintains its hold. Through ever dimming and clouded eyes, despite the evidence of an increasingly sharp odour of decay, the gentleman turns himself obliquely to the mirror and imagines, what? Certainly not the shadow that presents itself…”and he shall rise up at the sound of the bird and all the daughters of music shall be brought low.”
I seek to wander without burdens.We wear our mortality as a coat of strings and stones.
While my body begins to wither my heart grows massive.Or so it seems. My daughter´s heart weighed two hundreds fifty grams at her death. I cannot measure the weight I feel in my chest
We need art, writes Nietzsche, lest we perish from the truth.
One of our greatest artists, the composer Gustave Mahler, lamented that he was three times homeless, as a Bohemian in Austria, as an Austrian among Germans, and as a Jew everywhere in the world.
Is this lamentation not a signature of the Jewish mind? Is there not a constant, the crisis of faith, and is not faith rightly to be carefully considered as a gnosis. So The Law becomes the essential, The Law defines our lives; It is neither doctrine nor religion.
Here is a Jewish story.
In New York City, I lived for many years in an exceptional building called the Belnord. Built in the early twentieth century by a consortium of wealthy Jews whose rejection from living space on Fifth Avenue had inspired them to construct the most illustrious building in New York City, they had succeeded magnificently, and the building on the upper west of Manhattan continues to stand as a classic of elegant architecture.its stature indisputable to this day. Built around an interior courtyard as large as a football field, its Florentine inspired design takes up the entire quadrant from Broadway to Amsterdam Avenue between eighty sixth and eighty seventh streets
In my time it housed many illustrious and talented people in the arts; Joseph Heller, Bruce Davidson, Zero Mostel, Byron Browne, Theodore Upmann, Isaac Bashevis Singer. The management ownership for twenty years had worked to destroy its magnificence. While its infrastructure was a mess; (the elevators slipped continually, forcing my daughter to avoid them and to climb the ten floor up to our apartment); the elegance of the edifice was indestructible. The entire neighborhood declined into shabbiness. And the two avenues to the east became dangerous. So the rent was affordable. Bruce and Emily Davidson introduced me to Isaac Singer and his wife Alma. Alma worked at Bonwit Teller (I believe) and I had sympathy for her immediately. Isaac wrote in Yiddish, went down to the Famous Dairy cafeteria, and had a manner that intimidated me.
One day I came into the courtyard, my daughter on my shoulders and brown paper shopping bags in my fist. I had just seen the headline in the papers that Isaac had won the Nobel Prize, making him famous, rich and even more intimidating. Alma was rushing off to her floor clerk job when we met. She stopped me and said “Mr. Leventhal, what a wonderful man you are.” I congratulated her on the Prize. She repeated what she had said as though she had not heard me ,adding, “You always go everywhere with your beautiful daughter on your shoulders, and to the shopping and I know from an article I read that you cook for her too.”
Then she raised her chin and looked up at the sky as though searching there for a number she could just not make out. She sighed. “Mr. Leventhal, mine Isaac has never carried a shopping bag in his life.” And then she was gone.
I stood there for a few moments. Then it came to me that those who carry, shlepping we say, do not win prizes.