(adapted from a journal entry written the day after Passover)
It is the day after Pesach—the Passover.
It is 4 days after the accident: the thing, the unexpected force, that by all the laws of physics should have torn my family—my spouse and our son—from my life, from in fact, the world all together. Thankfully, other forces were at work. Life-saving forces. The Laws of Physics, it seems, are inextricably bound to the Laws of Passover.
In her book, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard talks of keeping her eyes open—of straining to remain open-eyed and looking intently for those “appearances that catch at [her] throat.” Likewise, I think, to see glimpses of the laws of Passover at work in the world around us requires keeping one’s eyes open, looking with searching intention to the things that catch at one’s throat.
Pondering this condition, I am reminded of a thing the rabbis say: that the whole world—the universe, in fact—is in the Torah; to see, we just have to keep turning it. Since the Torah is, first and foremost, a scroll, “turning it” means moving attentively through it, turning and rolling it from passage to passage, seam to seam, reading and re-reading; eyes wide open.
And, for what do we look, wide-eyed and searching intently: signs, glimpses, hidden-in-plain-sight indicators of the physics of Pesach. For the blood of some act of sacrifice, no matter how small, splashed on a door frame; the presence of still-living, first-borns. More, for reedy marshes wind-blown dry enough for crossing. For fresh manna in the morning, enough for the day entire. For sustaining water springing forth, at a tap, from desert rock. For evidence of clouds of smoke by day and fire by night.
I look for these. Again and again. I search in trees and streams, in wood and glen, in faces and in the skies over my head. I look in world and in Torah. And, I look—straining to keep my eyes open—for glimpses of these elemental evidences, these spirit-forces of Passover physics, in the stories of people who persist and who, in persisting, find some sign of God present among them.
Perhaps, a life is a scroll—a fragile parchment-skin, wrapped loosely around the grounding handles of earth and community, eternity and temporal now-ness, written in ever-turning and returning relationship and longing to be read.
Then, a life, too, can be read eyes-wide-open: turning and turning again, seeking after signs of Passover-physics at work in the bare and remarkable persistence of being. The appearance of each day, renewed and breathed-in against all odds. Strange movements of providence, unexpected, just-the-thing needful for hopeful going on to the next day. Perhaps, even, the mangled mess of metal, forced by carelessness through grass, trees, and wire boundaries, backwards, down a ravine to be caught and held by a stand of trees, barbed-wire fencing still clinging to its wheels: this testament, written in an instant, empty of the bodies who walked away. The only blood on the door frame, the tiny smear of a scraped knuckle.
I keep my eyes open to these things. I strain and strive to keep looking, turning again, looking closer still.
If a life is a scroll—or at least, a seam in a vast unfolding of a larger telling of the interdependent being-ness of every created thing—then, perhaps, not only is the whole universe in the Torah, but the Torah is in the whole of the world, shot through it all like green through the eternal springing of the stem: and, all our body-scrolls an individual haggadah in an ongoing recounting of Sacredness passing-over, hovering, brooding over the evolving telling of it—seam bound to seam, passage after passage, continuing Holy revelatory self-disclosure, the never-ending writing of the Law of Sacred Pesach Physics disclosed again and again in the remarkable, throat-catching persistence of being.