Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Sprinting to God

Two rows of men were neatly lined up for prayer in the Al Noor Mosque in South Bend tonight. As is the custom, the women were partitioned off in another side of the prayer hall. The men, old and young, were close to one another as they submitted themselves to God. One father had his young boy with him, an enthusiastic little fellow who took great delight in sprinting joyously across the prayer carpets and up and down the stairs while the elders were solemnly praying. His magnificent smile and sparkling eyes rippled across the room as he positively galloped back and forth. Occasionally he made room for himself in the tiny gap between his father and another man, boldly squeezing in his small body, forcing the men to shuffle sideways. His head barely came up to their waists, but he knew how to pray and his lithe body made the older men's bowing and kneeling seem labourious in comparison.

The little boy reminded me of a story from my Jewish friend Eliyahu McLean. When Eliyahu was a student in New York, like many other students he eagerly anticipated meetings headed by Menachem Mendel Schneerson (1902-1994), a highly prominent Rabbi in the Chabad/Lubavitch branch of Chassidic Judaism. Emotions were running high among a large proportion of Schneerson's followers that any day the Rabbi would announce publicly that he was the Messiah. Many of his followers believed he was the Messiah, and he did nothing to dissuade them of this belief. Students had their pagers set to alert them when Schneerson was to appear at a meeting. When they were studying together, their pagers would all go off at the same time, and they would sprint through the streets of Brooklyn to the large meeting hall. Despite Schneerson being partially paralysed by a stroke and unable to speak, his presence was nonetheless electrifying. He never did announce his role as Messiah, and today his followers are are divided as to his status. Chabad/Lubavitch Jews who believe he was merely a normal Rabbi have a normal sized picture of him on the wall of their synagogues, whereas those who believed he was indeed the Messiah typically make do with a truly enormous portrait of Schneerson.

Believers all make their own way to God, some a little quicker than others it seems.

4 comments:

Seeking peace said...

I was there too, and I must say you conveyed the scene tonight quite well, and your anecdote was thought-provoking.. It hit me like a brick wall, the weakness of my Catholic education: Jews are still looking for the Messiah..
I like your writing quite a lot.. see you soon.

Editor said...

Your description of what Lubavitchers believe and the association with the size of their Rebbe portraits is erroneous and misleading.

Perhaps you misunderstood Eliyahu's tales.

Damon Lynch said...

Hi, thank-you for visiting my blog. Perhaps you may like to be more specific about where you disagree. With regards to portrait size, Eliyahu was referring to synagogues in Jerusalem, and since you are presumably based primarily in Brooklyn, this is where your perspective may differ.

skankhunt42 said...
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