by R. Diane Elliot
for the Aquarian Minyan on the occasion of its 40th anniversary
Four, the headwaters flowing down from Eden
the fourth day, completing Creation with sun, moon, and stars
the mothers four--Sarah, Rivkah, Rakhel and Leah--
channeling Divine receptivity, nurturance, comfort
the fourth utterance at Sinai—Shabbat,
eternal remembrance of the cycles
of activity and rest
that source and bound our lives
the four directions—east, west, north, south--
brilliance, flow, depth, and passion--
teaching us the fullness of our days,
modeling the pattern
of our encampment in the wilderness
our groundedness amidst ongoing movement,
the dalet, doorway to our home.
And zero, efes, pure potentiality, eternity
HaMakom, the place, the point,
the sefirah from which all other numbers, all s’firot--
all emanations, all holiness, all stories, all beingness--
Essence of reality,
all and nothing,
Together, four and zero—40.
Or 4 times 10, if you prefer
dalet multiplied by yud,
a doorway for the One to enter;
a Way In that is also Way Far Out.
40, we are at home in G~d.
40, we are the door
through which Oneness enters.
40, the Hebrew letter mem,
the “ima,” mother letter,
giving birth through mayim,
water, sometimes flowing through
broad, open channels,
times of ease, of sailing smooth,
And sometimes squeezed and tortured
through the narrows,
months of challenge, treacherous currents,
years of tears, uncertainty….
40 days and nights of deluge
while Noah’s family tends to all life in a cramped,
40 days and nights of fasting on the mountain,
while Moses communes with the Holy One,
only to crash and burn
in anger, disappointment,
only to trudge back up the rocky tor
of encounter and union
to do it all again.
40 days and nights reconnoitering
the land of promise and terror.
40 years of wandering, not-knowing,
in a wilderness of potential and of grave risk,
a midbar of creative chaos.
In Torah, the number 40 really means
“a long, long time.”
Once-upon-a-forty-years-ago long time!
All this we celebrate tonight--
the seeds of creativity, the enwombment,
the challenge, the disappointment,
the bliss of sublime union and reunion,
the reconnoitering, the bickering, the wandering,
the standing at the very edge of
the Land of Promise
the land of myth and dream
whose borders shift constantly--
one moment within easy reach,
the next a distant desert mirage.
But milk and honey ooze up still
between our toes,
and a sweet, sweet manna taste
is in our mouths
drawing us ever onward.