July 5, 2022 -

Small enough to know you. Large enough to serve you.

Divine Signs (Tazria-Metzora – 04/17/21)

Rabbi Neil Schuman

Divine Signs
בָּנִים אַתֶּם לַידֹוָד אֱלֹהֵיכֶם
The Torah teaches us that we are “God’s children” (Deuteronomy 14). One would think a benefit of being a child is to receive loving guidance and instruction from the parent. Much of the time, though, it seems we’re cast out on our own. Are we truly not getting any heavenly clues, or are we just not aware of them when they arrive?
I shared a fascinating incident of a man receiving an omen with our Shabbat evening minyan. Ira Sukrungruang relayed the account in an essay titled “Nesting” found in the March 2021 Sun Magazine.
Two and a half years later, in 2019, I was offered a job that would require a move to Ohio. While I debated whether or not to take it, a red-tailed hawk landed on the window ledge of my office. The ledge was barely six inches wide, and the hawk had to stand with his wings pressed against the glass to fit. This looked uncomfortable. I was just inches away, separated from him only by a pane of glass. I could see clearly the sheen of his feathers, the predatorial curve of his gray beak. The bird was calm, not scared. He turned toward me, registered I was there, and stared for a long moment before taking flight.
I’m not saying I made the decision to take the job because of the hawk. I’m also not saying I didn’t. What I did do was go to the computer to look up the spiritual meaning of a hawk visitation. It “signals a time in your life when you need to focus on what’s ahead and prepare for a leadership role.” What was ahead of me was a new job in Ohio.
Until then I hadn’t been the type of person who subscribes to omens. This change in me had been brought about by a world that lately seemed filled with anger and hate and greed and selfishness. A world my son had been born into. A world I couldn’t protect him from. I couldn’t rely on logic and rationality anymore, because everything was illogical and irrational. Omens, no matter how ridiculous, made more sense than what was happening in our country. When we are desperate, we look for hope in anything, even, as Emily Dickinson wrote, a “thing with feathers.”
I wondered if our fellow daveners similarly followed any omens. I was amazed at our members’ responses:
Recalling a story from her high school years, Sara shared the time she and a friend had decided to stop off at Burger King for a snack after school. Midway on the bus ride home, the friend said, “You know what, we should go to White Castle instead.” Sara protested; the Whopper was calling to her. Yet when the bus pulled up in front of the White Castle, her friend said, “I have a strong feeling we should go to White Castle”, and she inexplicably pushed Sara off the bus. After a few tasty sliders, they walked home, only to find the block before the Burger King quartered off with yellow tape. Police cars swarmed the area as word of a gun shooting in the restaurant spread.
What pushed Sara’s friend to suddenly change her mind and forcefully exit at a safe venue? Did she unknowingly receive some Heavenly push?
Harriet recalled a story with her aunt. Harriet was driving her to the airport so she could attend an out-of-town wedding. Fifteen minutes into the drive, the aunt realized she’d forgotten to pack her dress for the wedding. They turn around, pick up the dress and head back to the airport. The aunt missed her flight and was forced to take a later one. This mistake turned out to be lifesaving, for the original plane malfunctioned mid-air and blew up; there were no survivors. Did some angel cause her to forget to pack such an essential item in order to save her life?
Shelly was in college when his parents left for the weekend. Well, when the cat’s away, the mice will play, so Shelly invited an even number of boys and girls over for a party. One young lady got sick, so she found someone to replace her. The host and the attractive replacement hit it off that night; Shelly and Judy have been together since. Did some spirit guide cause the intended guest not to feel well so that two “basherts’ should meet?
While these stories are certainly incredible, they weren’t answers to my question. These people saw God’s guidance in hindsight. I was asking if any people look for omens in real-time?
About a dozen years ago, I was in a very stressful situation and petulantly penned an email. As I was about to press send, my computer froze.  Peeved at my computer, I rebooted. Once I rewrote the letter and was ready to send it, my computer stubbornly froze once again. I was furious! I rebooted the computer, hastily wrote it for the third time, and sent it on its way. In hindsight, it was one of those letters that one should write but never send. I then understood that my reliable computer performing out of character twice was a sign. My spirit guides were attempting to prevent me from hurting myself. I ignored the warnings.
Now, whenever my computer freezes or loses internet at a time of import, I think twice and negate my intention. I accept the fact that I don’t always know what’s best for me and let go. Some people get hawks as signs; I get loss of internet.
I believe we indeed are all children of God and are worthy of grace and guidance. Perhaps if we could become open to the idea, we’d all find our own signs.
Keep your eyes open,
R’ Neil

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