David Spinrad of The Unorthodox Rabbi is a rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College, the seminary for the Reform (progressive) Jewish movement, and a personal trainer living in San Francisco. He is the husband of Gal of Growing Inside, whom we've honoured here at Glow. In the words of big sister Dahlia, Dave and Gal have one 'princess daughter' and one 'angel daughter'. Their youngest, Tikva, passed away in August 2008 of a diaphragmatic hernia diagnosed during Gal's pregnancy.
Dave joins our Are You There, God? It's Me, Medusa gathering with this caveat: "Even though I am a rabbinical student, I cannot promise that my perspective will be entirely Jewish. And even though I am a man, I cannot promise you my voice will be male. I will promise you that whatever I contribute will be a reflection of me, uncompromisingly honest and from the heart."
Do I really want to be a part of the Dead Babies Club? Can't I just do this myself, keep my feelings and perspective away from anyone or anything that I feel like I have to defend against?
I could be in the park right now. Sun, shining down. Me, dreaming up. Blue sky, above. Green grass, below. Is not this the purest connection to God? A clear head, feeling no differentiation between me and God and no distance from Source?
Who are you kidding?
I hear You. It actually sounds boring.
I do like this ride, although I don't know about the DBC.
Afraid? Why make life experience conditional? Why not dive into all of life?
This is the Jewish way.
I did come here to mix it up. I came for experience and expression. I am alive to explore. I live to be here, desire there, find peace in the here and enjoy the journey to there.
But where I am is no longer here and not quite there. A liminal state of being. Can I enjoy being neither here nor there? Can I trust where I am even if I don't understand it?
You can, if you let yourself be where you are.
Does this lead me to becoming a better rabbi, too? More questions than answers. My response to a person saying, "This will make you a better rabbi," is "I would settle for becoming eighty percent of the rabbi losing Tikva will make me," is a lie.
I will settle for nothing less than the fullness of life's experience. Tikva's passing is, on a feeling level, exactly the depth of life I desire. I wouldn't have asked for the conditions in a million years, but the 'why' of it isn't for me to answer. I can give that question over to God simply because there is absolutely no way for me come to a satisfactory answer. I'm totally off the hook for that one, and making myself crazy or miserable isn't my way.
It unsettles me to admit this, but when I take the labels of 'desired' and 'undesired' off the piles of life, I have so much more freedom in my life.
In the Torah, upon sending Abram upon the adventure of his life, God says to him, 'Lech lecha'. In English, it translates to, 'Go for yourself'. Or, we can translate it as, 'Go to yourself'. Every journey to ourselves is for ourselves. And Tikva's life gives me gifts for my journey to self that I am only beginning to understand.
Whether I want to be or not, I have a lifetime membership to the Dead Babies Club. Since I'm stuck here, would you mind if we open up a few windows? And while we grieve, I'm going to throw out a few thoughts.
Losing a child is not my whole life. Do you know how uncomfortable I am that there are all these people out there who only know me from this experience, only know me as Tikva's dad? I am so much more, way, way more than just her dad. I am made of the same stuff as sunshine between tree branches and nothing less than the moon rising above the Red Sea.
I am a part of God. Without me, there could be no You. The Sh'ma, whose words carve the foundation stone of Judaism, demands my particpation in comprising God, declaring: "Listen, you who wrestle with God, the Unity that is our God, God is One." You need us. And we, as a part of You, are eternal.
So why so much attention on this one little soul, this little piece of God consciousness who projected herself into a body that gave her exactly the experience she, and our collective consciousness, desired? Because if we're going to give her all this attention, let's look at the glory of the life she lived.
How many people do in eighty years what Tikva did in eight weeks? How many of us inspire hope, real hope, real oh-my-God-oh-my-God-oh-my-God hope in our lives? Tikva doesn't only mean ‘hope' in Hebrew, Tikva is hope. That's what she was and that's what she is. And I got to be the parent of the physical manifestation of the feeling of hope. I got to hold Hope in my arms.
And you want me to mourn that? Are you kidding me?!
And yet, I grieve. And that makes me feel so mortal. So ordinary. So. There is no escaping it. There is no winning in life and no losing in death, only love and our capacity to give and receive it.
Tikva's middle name is Ahava, ‘love' in Hebrew. And the only love worth a damn is unconditional love. It's a real thing and Tikva gave me the chance to feel it. I'd heard all about unconditional love in the past, but I was never able to separate the message from the messenger. I always suspected that deep down inside the person yammering on about unconditional love was really trying to set himself up to get a piece of ass. Nothing wrong with that, but don't kid yourself about unconditional love. Until you've lived it, you can't know it. And the separation between those who can grasp the concept and those who have held the feeling is a yawning chasm that nothing but experience can bridge.
Until you love your child without ever knowing whether or not you'll ever get to hold her, you don't know unconditional love.
Until your love for your child is greater than your need for her to live even one more day with anything less than the dignity she deserves, you don't know unconditional love.
I grieve the loss of Tikva, but can't and wouldn't change a thing. It doesn't all make sense to me and it feels like it never will, but in Man's Search of Meaning, Victor Frankel wrote this from the concentration camp in which he was held:
The last freedom is ours - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.