In the beginning there was the story.
I don’t want to talk, I just want a story.
Once upon a time — when I was young — in Austria – in Germany — in Jerusalem — in Fort Lee — in Toronto — in Chicago — in Florida — in LA. In Seattle — in Mexico — in Alaska — in Portland.
My teacher said, my father said, the rebbe of blessed memory said, Franz Rosenzweig said, my soul-brother said, a friend of my daughter’s said, I said. Mouse said, Bear said, the uncle who stole the spoons said, the guy who I wrestled in the snow said. The witch said, the magician said, the holy man said, the seeress said.
We all said we want to tell a story. But first there’s a story about that story.
Friends, the past 2 weeks have been crammed with stories: stories about stories, stories with bad endings, good endings and strange endings. Stories with and without heroes. Stories about cities and about the country. Stories about snow and ice and sand and sea. Stories about trees, and stories about garbage. The true, the false and the perhaps sort of true and false. A cacophony of tales.
My head is ringing with the adventures of rabbis and Puget Sound journalists. Of haikus written on the sides of vending machine cans. Of stories posted online, and written on the page, and whispered in each other’s ears as we leaned on tables as writers talked about God and Jesus and parables. Or we heard about the Holocaust and the Kindertransport. How a middleaged couple met and fell in love at the hospital where someone’s son died. A woman had to go work in a prison and in order to get ready she chose to ride on a roller-coaster. The biggest, awfullest one she could find. Or a story about a woman who had to crack a hardboiled egg on her head to find peace.
I am privileged and lucky to navigate the world of stories. I teach about them, receive them, tell them, and write them. I want to say a big thank you to the writers at Whidbey Island for the many stories I heard and read and a big todah to the powerful story tellers of the Institute of Jewish Spirituality Gratitude retreat, where master-artists and eager students shared countless narratives.
I am still trying to remember them all. For the moment though, I invite you to sit in the swirl of stories all around you — on the bus and in the hall and on the radio and in your head.