Thursday, December 06, 2007

Back to School

By Franny Silverman

Storah On The Road

"Shhhh....bring peace downstairs."

"Knock Knock. Who's There? One."

"Listen, Wrestlers, the Divine Watchmaker is Infinite. Is One."

Sound vaguely familiar? The above are three interpretations of the Sh'ma by Hillel students at SUNY Binghamton. I spent last Shabbat with 300 of SUNY Binghamton Hillel's brightest for their annual Shabbat of Unity. The pluralist Kabbalat Shabbat featured the trendy "Tri-cheetza," (a congregation divided into three sections: men, mixed seating and women), and then we moved to dinner. After schnitzel and before brownies, I led the group through several exercises aimed at giving everyone an opportunity to discover and share his/her individual voice by exploring a familiar (and unifying) Jewish text - the Sh'ma.

The students offered translations and interpretations as a preacher, as Oprah Winfrey, a 3rd grade teacher and even the Geiko geko. But the highlight of my weekend in SUNY Binghamton was reconnecting with our CLIP intern from last summer and her suitemates. After the event, back at their dorm room, one of her roommates told me a secret:

When she was a little girl in Sunday school, she remembers hearing about "Adonai" and thinking that everyone was saying "I dunno". As in:
"Sh'ma Yisrael I dunno Eloheynu I dunno Echad"
She remembered this when, in the large group, we brainstormed how one translates "Adonai," which literally means "my Masters" (note the plural) and is itself already a translation for YHVH.
Lord? G-d? God? Master? Rock and Redeemer? Father? King? But really, what is YHVH? How do you explain it to a child? To yourself? How does the agnostic translate it? The humanist? The Star Wars fanatic?

To a little girl in Sunday school who grew up to be a wise university student, it made perfect sense that "Adonai" might just be "I dunno".

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