Three Keys

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Dear Friends,
 
The annual Torah cycle has us telling the stories of a generational saga of adventure, trauma, ecstasy, and infertility – as if to remind us – all families are nuts! The whole set-up is absurd: too much love, too much feeling, in too much proximity. And yet, the work of spiritual growth takes place on these premises, not in the isolation of a monastery.
 
While God has promised Abraham offspring as great as the sand and the stars, the motif of the family drama recycled through each generation is infertility. Abraham and Sarah struggle to have children, as do Isaac and Rebecca, and Jacob and Rachel. And it may be a minority opinion, but through several pages of the Talmud, the rabbis lay the blame of infertility on the patriarchs. (Yevamot 64a)
 
Elsewhere, this sweet aphorism appears in the tradition – Three keys are kept by the Holy Blessed One never to be given over to any intermediary: the key of rain, the key of childbirth, and the key of the resurrection of the dead.
 
These three mystery realms share in the power of regeneration – the rains come after drought to water dry earth, resurrection restores life in some form or another – maybe birth too is regeneration, a womb reawakened to its capacity to hold life, or a soul returning from another plane for another earth-ride.
 
I’m partial to old analog equipment: record players and type-writers, ouds and violins, and skeleton keys. I like the old intricate ones made from solid metals found at dollar shops in small towns. I have plenty of them, collected over the years. I gave that Midrash to a friend once, along with a skeleton key.
 
Zivar and I find ourselves in the years of child rearing and we were deeply blessed with Rumi’s swift emergence in our lives. That has not been the case for many of our friends. I don’t believe in a God that gives out babies with storks – but a network of energies and sources, connected to rain and soul journeys – I can see that palette.
 
At some point, they finally ask the question: Why were our ancestors infertile?
 
Because the Holy One desires the prayers of the righteous. Rabbi Yitchak said – Why do we compare the prayers [vay’eter] of the righteous to a pitchfork [eter]? Just as a pitchfork turns over the harvest from place to place, the prayers of the righteous flip the mood of God from judgment to compassion. (Yevamot 64a)
 
Across the mystical traditions it is the lack, the emptiness, the yearning, which provides the impetus for the beginning of prayer. And that form of being – open, humble, prostrated, giving, is an essential posture of a spiritual life. Wherever you are barren, don’t run from what you don’t have, or let the pain crush you, let the emptiness pull you into prayer. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground.
 
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Zach Fredman

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