Throughout the Bible, God asks our prophetic ancestors: "Where are you?" "Hineni," they answer: "Here I am." The question is not a geographic one, but an existential one. Not just "Who are you?" but "What are you?" Or even: "Are you?"
"Where are you?" my wife Abby asked me, eight centimeters into our son Aviv's birth, as I fell to the ground in utter bewilderment. "Here I am," I tried to say before I blacked out. Ten minutes later, an icebag on my head, I collected myself so I could be present for the last hour of the birth.
Despite being absent for only a few minutes, my feeling of failure gnawed at me. Over the next two years I asked myself over and over: "Who was I that I couldn't have stayed conscious enough to help, much less say the words 'Here I am'?"
It was with an existentially overloaded agenda that I walked Abby into the hospital 33 months later, our second child ready to pop. What would the price of failure be this time if I couldn't answer the call? Strangely enough, it was the certainty of my imminent failure that saved me. I knew that fainting was certain, and I ceded control to whomever or whatever had wired me genetically. At the same time, I knew that I had done everything I could to prepare myself for this moment.
At 2 AM, my wife and our baby both reaffirming the thin line between life and death, I told Abby I was going to sit down and faint, and that I would be back soon. I was as good as my word. The nausea, the headache, the disorientation was just the same as before. But Abby knew where I was; knew what I was. And, most importantly, so did I.
Daniel Schifrin is Director of Public Programs and Writer in Residence at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. www.thecjm.org
I had a beautiful day today. I stood with my sister, a passionate rabbi serving the U.S. Navy as a chaplain, at the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. We remembered our grandfather of blessed memory, who fought for America and shared hard-earned wisdom with his children and grandchildren.
I looked to my right and saw the Washington Monument. Looked to my left at the Lincoln Memorial. I read quotes engraved on massive stones. And I felt, to my core, one sad feeling: too much war.
Too. Much. War.
The quotes and certain retellings of history would have me believe that we fought for pure purposes: we fought for religious freedom, we fought to end slavery, we fought for freedom for all humanity, we fought to end tyranny. But it's also true that we fought (and fight) for economic interests. It&…