Thursday, September 14, 2017

the world of names






Marc Chagall, 
Elijah Touched by an Angel, from the Bible suite, 1958, 
The Jewish Museum, New York


Once a rabbi met the prophet Elijah. The rabbi asked Elijah, “When will the messiah come?” 
Elijah said, “Go and ask him yourself when he’s coming.” 
The rabbi said, “Where is he?” 
Elijah said, “He’s sitting at the city gate, covered in bandages’ 
(an alternate version of this story has the messiah changing the bandages of the lepers at the city gate). 
So the rabbi went and asked the messiah, “When will you come?” 
The messiah said, “Today.”
The rabbi came back and relayed this to Elijah: “The messiah is coming today!” 
Elijah responded with temperance, saying “the messiah meant today, if you listen to God’s voice.” 

The tradition practically begs us to realize, the messiah is here. The world to come is here. The unknown is as close as your breath. What this means is that, as Wendell Berry writes, “What we need is here”; yet we must be careful to not grasp in the presence of that knowing, lest we fall to irretrievably into the world of names. 





~ Joshua Boettiger, 
from NAMING THE UNNAMEABLE
Advice on living in two worlds

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