Counting to 10


My kids are learning to play hide and seek.

I loved this game as a kid. Our small suburban house had lots of little spots that could serve as viable hiding places. I remember my mom occasionally needing to coax me out after I’d found a particularly effective station and remained there long after the game had run its course.

These days, I live in a NYC apartment along with my two little men. Space is, to say the least, at a premium. Hence, appropriate hiding places can be in short supply.

Not that we don’t manage, however. My three-year-old son spends a good amount of time lying semi-motionless under a blanket in the middle of my bed, hoping time and time again that I will fail to notice the significant lump rising up from the mattress, let alone the steady stream of muffled giggles that it emits.

Consequently, it often takes me several minutes of intense “searching” to find him. I call his name as I look in the closet, in the bathtub, in my backpack…

Eventually, with great fanfare and astonishment, he is found. After a good laugh, the boys switch roles and his four-year-old brother goes off to “hide.” Eyes covered, I slowly and deliberately count to 10, and suddenly a slightly larger lump in the bed has appeared…

While our family gaming tradition continues to grow, I‘ve recently reached a tipping point in my personal journey. I’m experiencing change in fundamental ways. And, in an ironic sense, my search for growth is informed by this gameplay.

Truth: I’m tired of looking for God in the bathtub.

I’m often struck by how our larger community deals with the concept of a God that is. Some choose to not invoke God’s name at all; others need a euphemism or a piece of poignant imagery simply to be in relationship, relying on burning bushes and parting waters to bridge their intellectual and spiritual selves.

I believe in a God that is everything and everywhere, the One great unifying force that binds us together on every (un)imaginable level. I believe there is More, and I want to get closer to It.

Like many of us, I’ve spent much of my spiritual adult life discovering meaning and connection in a series of bursts.  Maybe it’s a natural product of personal maturation, but I’ve tired of doing an Israeli line dance around the edges of my spiritual life. Once in a while, I’ll hold onto friends and loved ones as we move toward the center of our circle, raising our joined hands in the air as we converge into a connected community. Then, just like that, we are back on the outskirts, circling the center where we will reconvene in sixteen or thirty-two bars.

I’ve often grappled with the question of why we don’t just stay in the center. Were we to remain there without end, would it lose its luster, no longer as special as it was when we reached there only occasionally? Or, would the intensity of the center become overwhelming, rapidly escalating into a new and tremendously powerful experience? I don’t know. And at various times, like many of us, I’ve been deeply afraid of finding out.

I’m not suggesting the viability of an existence that occurs solely in that center. I’m simply stating that we could stand to spend more time there, both individually and as a community.

If we believe in God’s oneness, if we are all made b’tzelem Elohim (in the image of God), and if we are all part of the One... then we hold an intrinsic responsibility to embrace the depth of that connection and to let go of the fear which inevitably surrounds it.

The words in the siddur are simply a door, the rituals of Jewish life simply a vehicle. They are not a destination, but a path. If we are content to let those tools be the extent of our spiritual connection, then we miss the point entirely, allowing ourselves to diminish the possibility of More in favor of what is known, safe, and secure.

Baruch Atah, Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha Olam, whom we seek in the quietest and most remote of places. May we be granted the courage to truly see… even if we don’t begin by counting to ten.