While some knew him as Jonah and others as Mac, we all loved and respected him. And we miss him dearly.

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For A Blessing

I wrote this for the March 2010 issue of my temple bulletin. Once again, not a Jonah-story but, to mark Jonah’s 1st yahrzeit, some thoughts on my journey of the past 12 months.

Billy

 

“God will destroy death forever, and wipe the tears from every face.”

This text is from the prophetic book of Isaiah (chapter 25, verse 8) and was written in the 7th century BCE. It’s old.

What’s most interesting to me about this verse is God’s relationship to death. Death is something separate and distinct from God. Perhaps death is not a god itself, but it’s still presented as a power over which God does not necessarily hold dominion. It is predicted (which I think means “hoped”) that one day God will.

Of course, while our hearts may say otherwise, you and I know that a world without death would become catastrophe. For a while we would take comfort in knowing our loved ones won’t be leaving us, but our home on this planet would quickly run out of room and resources. And then I wonder, in a world without death, is pain eliminated as well? Or must our loved ones suffer for eternity? Given that perspective, death isn’t quite the cruelty it feels like when we’re forced to let it into our lives.

Confirmation, June 2006

Confirmation
June 2006

Unbelievably, a year has passed since Jonah died. His first yahrzeit will be observed this month. It is an occasion to reflect on loss and yearning.

We have all come a great distance since the news arrived from Buffalo that Jonah Maccabee had left us. So many tears, and so many questions why. Even I have demanded of God an explanation for such outrageous behavior on the part of the Creator of the Universe: “Loved ones in the prime of life should not be cut down. Who do You think You are?!”

But you and I know that fifteen billion years ago, laws of physics were given governance over affairs of matter (and heart). The people we love don’t die because God says so. They die because the laws of nature don’t ever get set aside. People get sick, and sometimes die. People have accidents, and sometimes die. People are in the wrong place at the wrong time, and sometimes die. If God has any say in this, that say was made at the dawn of Creation, when life was deemed fragile and always – always – subject to nature’s rule.

I miss Jonah. A year later and the tears may not fall quite so often, but they most certainly fall. I hope they do so forever. But if I had been given the opportunity to prevent Jonah’s death from ever happening, with the price being the upending of the laws of physics and the introduction of Divine whim into the workings of the universe, well, that’d be a very tough choice. But in my more philosophical moments, I think I really value residing in a universe where laws can be counted upon, where we take our chances, hoping to live decent, fulfilling lives, yet always with the possibility that the very rules which allow for us to thrive may also be the ones that bring what is good and beautiful to an early and tragic end.

This world of ours is a tough blessing, but a blessing nonetheless.

Billy

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