Sunday, July 20, 2008

Tooter Turtle and Thoughts About The Three Weeks

I believe in the sun
even When it isn't shining

I believe in love,
even when I am alone

I believe in G-d
even when He is silent.

(These words were found written on the wall in a basement in Cologne where Jews were found hiding)

In a little more than an hour, the fast that starts the observance of the three weeks will begin. It is the seventeenth of Tammuz, when the Romans broke through the walls of Jerusalem. Three weeks later, the temple , the Bet HaMikdash was destroyed.
This period on the calendar has become for me something like Yom HaShoah or Holocaust Remembrance Day. Both temples were destroyed on the 9th of Av. The edict of expulsion from Spain became effective on that day in 1492. The various tragedies that have marred Jewish history raise some of the same questions. I do not isolate the Shoah from the rest of our history. A single day does not do this theme proper justice.
We have two full fasts of 25 hours on the Jewish calendar. One is on the ninth of Av, in three weeks. The other fast is on Yom Kippur. For me, Yom Kippur is a time to ask G-d and people for forgiveness. On the ninth of Av I try to forgive G-d.
As a child on Saturday morning, I was not in synagogue. I was home watching cartoons. One of my favourites was Tooter Turtle . Each episode started off with Tooter Turtle wishing for some dream to come true. After some words of caution, the Wizard, his wise mentor and benefactor would wave his wand and thereby transport Tooter into his own land of wishes come true. Inevitably, the fantasy would take on a frightening life of its own. Each episode ended with Tooter Turtle crying "Help! Mr. Wizard!" At the end of each episode the dream ended with the wave of a magic wand and a wise lecture that made sense of Tooter's mishaps.
Perhaps more than I realised, Tooter Turtle shaped or at least resembles my expectations of G-d. Many times in the middle of a crisis I have called out" Ribono Shel Olam !" or G-d Almighty!" As my survival attests, I am satisfied with the results. There have been enough happy endings to carry me past the half century mark.
There are other endings that leave me unsatisfied. The killing fields in Cambodia, genocide in Darfur and Rwanda are all tragedies that have occurred in my life time. From these places rose many a cry for deliverance. Many cries went unanswered. Why are some born to lands of freedom and wealth and others born to countries where fear is king? Why are some born to loving parents and others to a litany of abuse?
It is tempting to believe in randomness and chaos. It is also terrifying.
What has a generation of disbelief produced? Those whose cries pierce the heart. Were they struck by G-d? Or were they struck by man? I ask of G-d in his own words "Why do you stand idly by the blood of your neighbour?" I ask myself the same question and I am ashamed.
What do people become when they believe that there is no G-d? What do they then inflict on the world?
I still ask G-d, "When do you decide enough is enough and decide to step in? You've done it before. If not now, the when?"
In past years, I went to 770, the main synagogue in Crown Heights on Tisha B'Av to listen to Rabbi Nissan Mangel. At the age of ten he was shipped to Auschwitz. Not only did he survive, but his faith did as well. He actually said that his faith was strengthened in Auschwitz. I can not do his words justice (You should click here to listen to him speak on this subject)
It is people like Rabbi Mangel who help me sort through this potentially confusing issue. If you know people who have found meaning in the suffering in their lives, perhaps they should be studied and listened to as well.
I still find myself looking for the Mr. Wizard of my childhood, for that kind voice that gently dissolves nightmares. There have been miracles in the past. There will be miracles in the future. G-d said it. I believe it. Whatever my doubts, the generations that believed only in themselves have forfeited my confidence. Most of my prayers have been answered through people who decided that G-d wanted them to be kind. I have met Mr Wizard and he is us.

Another Tooter Turtle Video From You Tube

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