While living in Jerusalem, I lost God. I never lost the belief in God, mind you, but rather, God’s presence. And that is far more unsettling.
I would wander the streets of the most intensely spiritual city in which I had ever lived, searching. I shunned the obvious places—the hip-happening shuls, the austere Western Wall, and even the sanctuary of my own seminary. God, the still small voice that usually rested in my soul, would not be in any of those spots. I had to pursue the less obvious.
I sought out Hadaya. His small shop in the below ground part of the Cardo had room for two folding chairs and small table with a pitcher of water and two plastic cups—but almost no space for his wares. Hadaya was a jeweler who made, among other items, a special ring engraved with the words gam zeh ya-avor, “this, too, shall pass.” When buying one of these rings, Hadaya would tell the story of King Solomon and his most trusted servant, Benaiah. The King sent Benaiah to find a ring that would make a sad person happy and a happy person more subdued. Benaiah wandered the earth, searching and searching. He never found the ring, and instead had one made with the words, gam zeh ya-avor. It did exactly what the King had requested. Hadaya made me his special ring, with a small ruby. As I had it done on a Friday, Hadaya added to the inside of the ring’s band an engraving of the Jerusalem skyline.
Which brings me back to that City and my searching. The ring brought me hope and possibility. But it didn’t bring me God.
I went to parks on Shabbat mornings to watch dogs fetch tossed balls and to hear children squeal when the dogs returned. Sometimes, the children fetched the balls and the dogs squealed when the children returned. Returned. The dogs came back. So did the children. Why couldn’t God?