Shabbat (Sabbath) was OK, but a bit of a struggle. It’s just too hot. I know that in some places it gets hotter and more humid, but bear in mind houses in the UK are built for cold. They are insulated and sometimes poorly ventilated. So it’s pretty sweltering. I couldn’t sleep at all last night. I stayed up reading. I eventually fell asleep around 5.00am.
Once I slept a lot again over Shabbat, despite the insomnia. I slept late once I got to sleep and I napped in the afternoon, so I’m super-awake now, which is not good.
Today we ate in the garden, both lunch and seudah shlishit (the third Sabbath meal). I was apprehensive about this, because I had a vague sense it ought to be religiously prohibited, but I couldn’t think of a reason why, or at least, not a reason I couldn’t argue against. That said, if I hadn’t seen our super-Hasidic next-door neighbours do it last week, I don’t think I would have done it. Still, I guess it’s progress in being less religious OCD-defined, and more open to things generally. There’s probably a good deal of autistic “I don’t want to do anything new” in the “It’s halakhically forbidden (forbidden by Jewish law),” as much as OCD and over-caution.
My mood was variable. I had the weird thought that in terms of dates, I’m doing about as well by just posting stuff on my blog and occasionally meeting people romantically that way (meeting online or in person) than I am being proactive in the real world or even hoping non-internet women would want to date me. Obviously my online presence is more confident, more charming, more I-don’t-know-what than my in-person presence (unsurprising, as in-person presence is socially crippled by social anxiety and autism). Who knows whether I’ll meet someone else that way? Still, I do feel the odds are against my finding anyone soon, or even really being able to manage a relationship soon. It’s just counter-productive to dwell on those thoughts.
(It’s strange, but despite my shyness and social anxiety, I do quite like meeting people in person who I have “spoken” to online. I’ve done it quite a lot.)
I realised that somewhere along the line I stopped praying to find my spouse. I’m not sure why. I know in the last year or so I’ve cut down a lot of voluntary/spontaneous prayer because of feeling depressed and tired and overwhelmed and far from God. That was probably a bad idea, making me more distant from God, but it’s hard to know how to get back to it.
I never know what to pray for about dating anyway. I don’t exactly feel like I could get married at the moment, certainly financially and maybe emotionally. Maybe I should pray to find some other activity or social network that would take away the loneliness? But it feels unJewish to be in my late thirties and unmarried and not doing the one proactive thing I can really do about it (prayer).
Plus, how would I pray to feel less sexually frustrated, from a Jewish point of view, without praying to get married? There isn’t another option. It’s pretty clear from the Talmud that praying to reduce your libido doesn’t work (“There are no half blessings from Heaven”); marriage is the only option. But what if, financially and emotionally, that isn’t possible right now, maybe never? What should I pray for?
Those thoughts about finding a spouse by just waiting until she finds my blog (maybe) cheered me up a bit, but others brought me down. I started crying while I was davening Minchah (saying Afternoon Prayers), I’m not sure why. I had been thinking about a chiddush (novel Torah thought) I had and I’m not sure if it was connected.
In Bereshit (Genesis) chapter 6, God tells Noach (Noah) to build the ark and that it should have a “tzohar.” It is not clear what a “tzohar” is. The Medieval commentator Rashi (based on the Midrash in Bereshit Rabbah) gives us two options: “Some say this is a window and some say this is a precious stone that gave light to them.”
However, contrary to the way a lot of people read it, Midrash isn’t just about finding quirky facts about the Torah. It is about finding deeper meanings. What is this teaching us?
In his book Genesis: From Creation to Covenant, Rabbi Zvi Grumet notes that the description of the flood undoes the Creation narrative from chapter 1 of Genesis, with the world being uncreated stage by stage in reverse order as everything is destroyed, back to the point where the waters above and the waters below were divided on day two, leaving only the light created on day one. The only thing not mentioned are the luminaries, created on day four. We can assume they were covered by clouds, from the point of view of the ark, but this is not explicitly stated.
We might then argue that the “window” opinion assumes that the luminaries were still visible and all that was needed was a window to let the light of the sun and moon in, whereas the “luminescent stone” opinion assumes that the luminaries were invisible, and some artificial (quasi-supernatural) light source was necessary for the ark’s inhabitants.
Perhaps the deeper symbolism is this. The “window” option assumes that even at a time of strict justice, when God withdraws his mercy and lets destruction reign on the world, even then there is hope as a natural part of the world. There are intrinsically positive aspects of creation still around, still shedding their light from a distance. God’s Presence can always be felt.
The “luminescent stone” approach is darker, in all senses. It says that sometimes the world is so dark that you can find no natural source of light altogether. The world outside is absolutely awful with no exceptions. At a time like this, we have to rely on God to cast light for us directly and miraculously because the outside world is just too dark and horrible for us. (I feel that this is a post-Holocaust type of perspective.)
I thought about the above, then I immediately went to daven Minchah, as I said, and I suddenly started crying and I didn’t know why. I strongly suspect it is connected to what I was thinking, but I don’t know if I felt overwhelmed that God was providing light for me after all, or upset and alone that I feel He is not providing light for me.
My parents and I didn’t play a game on Shabbat this week, partly as Shabbat is finishing earlier now and partly because our neighbours came to the door for a socially distanced conversation with my parents towards the end of Shabbat, when we’d been playing (we all nap in the afternoon). I’m trying to persuade my parents to play a longer, more involved game on a Sunday afternoon, as we’re all in at the moment, maybe Trivial Pursuit or Risk (my family don’t like to play Trivial Pursuit with me because I win. I think at one stage they would only play if I answered the Genius Edition questions and they answered questions from a similar, but easier, quiz game). I don’t remember the rules to Risk, but I’ve been thinking lately that I want to play it again.
I’m trying to listen to a long playlist on Spotify, but someone keeps editing it, so every time I open Spotify to listen to it, the track order has been changed and it’s hard to keep track of what I’ve heard to and what I haven’t. Very annoying. It’s one of the Spotify-produced (as opposed to user-produced) playlists too.