Tuesday, September 02, 2003
A parable of teshuvah, for Elul:
A man is marooned in the desert, and wanders for many days. He learns, perforce, to live in this difficult environment, to draw water from the thick-leaved plants while eluding the thorns; to capture the dew that settles on his cloak at night; to travel in the early dawn and late evening, and hide from the mid-day heat that would suck the moisture out of his open mouth.
Many times, he has seen pools of shimmering water on the horizon - especially when he has travelled too far into the morning, and the sun has risen to its full white power, and the rock and sand begin to bend under the blows of the sun. And sometimes he runs out to taste the waters, hoping they are sweet and not bitter, only to find that they are neither sweet nor bitter, for there are no waters to taste, only the laughing sunlight.
Then, one day, he comes upon an oasis. There are palm trees here, and the rocks and sand that ring the pool are darkened with moisture, not shining, and the pool lies just below the surface of the land, and the air above is still, not shimmering. This is no mirage.
And yet the man hesitates. Not because he has been fooled before, though that is part of it. But because he fears drowning. So long wandering in the desert, he fears what he would do if he immersed himself wholly in these cold waters, whether he would go into shock from the sudden change in environment - or whether, worse, he would so love the deep that he would hold his head below the surface too long, and drown.
And so the man stands at the edge of the pool, and cups his hand, and raises a portion of the water to his lips, and drinks from his hand, just so much as one can drink in a single swallow. Perchance he takes two drinks, or three, or more, until he first senses the fading of thirst, then pauses, lest he forget to be thankful.
Perhaps of this man, too, one might say: by [those] men who lapped will I save you. [Judges 7:7]