HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal

Student Encounter with God

by Yonim Schweig Issue: The God Issue

Students analyzed Yaakov’s and Moshe’s first individual encounters with God. They were then asked to imagine what their encounter with the divine would look like, and could do so using any medium. They would need to explain the meaning behind the symbolic language, actions and objects that might be present in their encounter. –Tamar Rabinowitz, Jewish Studies Teacher

Paradise from Paradox By Yonim Schweig

As the last rays of dawn collide with the first of dusk

And deer crawl while slugs run,

I enter an orchard called Paradox

Where enigmas question reality

And the truth questions me.

I am quite afraid of being questioned.

Amidst a realm of such terror and chaos,

A rain begins to fall

Of which the paradox is, that in the land of Paradoxes,
her drops do not collide—

But stack neatly, one atop the other, both supported
and supporting at once.

An infinite chalice embraces each drop,

And I am in awe of the globules of water that
do not fuse;

That with each drop taken, the chalice gives space;

And that the organic constants of both liquid and expanse

Allow the droplets substance.

I see myself within a raindrop or two

And see my peers within the others.

The voice of that which was, is, and will be,

Drinks deeply from the chalice,

And explains to me:

Your ancestors once called this place of Paradox “Paradise.”

Though there truly is no difference between the two,

For both are infinite and full of opportunity.

But be wary of divorcing “Paradise”

From the lexicons of truths that lay wrapped within Paradox alone.

I watch those few upper raindrops that kiss the lips of the chalice—

Anticipating the fluid exodus from cup to mouth.

And the lower ones, that remain oblivious and yet subject

to the voices’ thirst.

The majority of drops, the middle ones, sit in denial—

Of their impending decision, that was orphaned from a question.

The voice of Paradox speaks,

And asks of me to become a drop of water in a chalice.

And secede from misery,

To a world of mystery,

That may be Paradox—

Or Paradise, depending on who or what is speaking.

I am no longer afraid of being questioned by truth,

For all is reliant on who is singing- not what is being sung—

And droplets of water in a chalice of infinitude

Help the parched Voice to sing.


Background: Whereas the biblical revelations come in the context of G-d’s divine plan for the world, I imagined my divine encounter as a revelation that befits my personality, beliefs and struggles. I often find myself stuck between those that insist on Jewish tradition as being pure paradox, an endless struggle of feuding claims, and those who perceive Judaism as a fluid text completely void of any moral challenge to the reader. This poem follows the theme of Yaakov and Moshe’s arrival in a supernatural location, by setting the protagonist (me) amidst a beautiful “orchard of paradox.” Additionally, in all three narratives, the protagonist experiences a fear at entering their respective places of wonder. Although the location is fictitious, the garden represents my real life predicament of living among those who devoutly believe in the paradoxes of life as being the only truths.

The Revelation: While experiencing the oddities of “Paradox,” I experience a revelation that combines natural and supernatural occurrences. Like Moshe’s experience at the burning bush, my revelation begins with a captivating but normal process, that of rainfall. My vision of the rain is such that it falls with order and precision, into a (vaguely described) chalice. Different from ordinary precipitation, though, is the tendency of these raindrops to maintain their individual structure, even when mixed with the other drops. At a point in the poem, I realize that I identify with certain raindrops, and recognize other drops as embodiments of my peers. Following this recognition I, as the onlooker, realize that G-d’s presence is available to me as manifested through “the voice of that which was, is, and will be.” G-d then appears to me, drinks from the rain collected in the chalice, and begins to relay a simple but important message.

The contact with G-d: My contact with G-d is expressed through his answer to the underlying struggle in the poem. At the end of the first stanza, I admit to the reader that I am afraid of living in a world of homogenized paradox. In real life, I do indeed feel distant from the straightforward explanations of religion that unimaginatively and defensively dismiss thousands of years of history. In my revelation, G-d explains to me that life in this orchard should not be seen simply as paradoxical, as the physical signs suggest, but should be viewed only as another voice in the ongoing pursuit of truth. In my poem, G-d blends for me the concept of religious paradise (through a hope for a physical paradise, and through belief in text as an intellectual one), and the atheistic intellectual’s belief in Paradox (this assumes that atheism is validated by the paradoxes of religion). In my poem, G-d exists. However different beliefs in his existence are simply separate expressions of the same Eden. One can interpret this to mean that both atheistic and religious thought are given sustenance through the endless discussions and questions that both entail.

The metaphor: The metaphor in my divine encounter consists of rain assuming physical forms, and then filling an infinite chalice with its abundance. Following this, G-d’s voice drinks the collected rain from the chalice, revitalizing itself in the process. My thought behind the specifics in my metaphor is that the different components combine allegorically to explain the true meaning of the revelation. In simple terms, the chalice represents the world, and the drops of rain, the people that inhabit our earth. In the same way that the raindrops are only able to maintain form by being created amongst the world of paradox and paradise, human beings are only given the right to exist by being created with a backdrop of meaning—whether that is through paradox or paradise.

My allegory seeks to explain how humanity is meant to interact with G-d, by emphasizing that G-d’s voice benefits from the pursuits of man. I specifically included the voice of G-d, and not some other part of his being, due to its mention in the revelations in the Torah, and because I believe that voice is the ultimate expression of the discussions and deliberations which, in this metaphor, man is destined to fulfill. My revelation closes off with G-d communicating to me that my individual role as a drop in the cup of rain—my perspective among the myriad of opinions that give life to Torah—is essential to the creation of Paradise from Paradox, order from chaos, logic from accusation, and G-dly from profane.

Yonim Schweig, 10th grade student, Jewish Community High School of the Bay, San Francisco, California

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The God Issue

In Jewish tradition, God alone is the Creator of all and the ultimate embodiment of unity, Oneness. In the 21st century Jewish community, however, God can often be a source of contention and divisiveness. Our community is far from united around questions of God's existence, nature and way of acting, the ways that we can understand God and relate to God. The authors in this issue approach the Big Questions from a wide variety of perspectives and thinkers, but they are united in their concern to bring the God Issue within the classrooms and halls of Jewish day schools.

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