My boyfriend and I live 307 miles apart (thank you, Google maps, for your precision). Long distance is not the easiest way to start a relationship, let alone to maintain it. When we manage to sneak a weekend together amidst our busy schedules (we both often work weekends), the time together always seems too short and fleeting. Our hearts break open with love and break into pieces when we have to say goodbye. The best word we have found to describe the situation is “ughhh.” There's not much else to it. We work hard to be in touch when we are not together—we send emails, texts, pictures, we call each other, we Skype, and do all those 21st Century miracles that usually help us feel closer (and now, apparently I blog about him).
On his most recent visit to Philadelphia, we decided to go ice skating. It seemed like just the right mix of absurd and romantic that suited us well. It was fun. I only fell once and I got a cup of hot chocolate once we were done. When we first got on the ice, we found our balance and began skating. We were both doing a lot better than we expected to (which does not say much—we anticipated holding onto the wall a lot).
It was somewhat crowded and there were little children skating circles around us, which sometimes made skating together a challenge. So, there were times we separated, each playing with speed and skating between and around others. We would skate for a few minutes separately, maybe do a lap or two around the rink, and then reconnect in a bit. In those moments of separation, I thought of the rink as the setting for our long distance relationship. Sometimes we were together, holding hands and skating in unity. Other times, we skated separately. Then, I would pause and wonder where he was. He was not within my line of sight, but I knew he was somewhere on the rink with me, and if I slowed down (or sped up) and waited a bit, we would be reconnected. He was never far, and all I had to do was adjust and wait.
I realized that in the moments where those pesky 307 miles feel like 307,000 miles, all I have to do is wait. Thankfully, we have the resources to be able to see each other with some regularity and we always have our next visit scheduled.
Then, as I carefully avoided toppling over a downed (albeit smiling) child, I began thinking about the other great source of love in my life: God. My daily liturgy reminds me of God's love. “Ahavah rabbah ahavtanu Adonai Eloheinu, chemlah g'dolah viteyrah chamaltah aleynu/With an abounding love, You have loved us, HaShem, our God, with great compassion do you care for us.” I began thinking about God skating on the rink with me (She is, not surprisingly, a much better ice skater than I am).
I began to realize that my relationship with God is similar in some ways to my relationship with my long distance boyfriend. I do not always feel their immediate presence but I know they are there, their love sustains me, and our relationships take a lot of work. God is not always holding my hand on the rink but is always somewhere on the rink with me, and I am committed to skating together as often as possible. The psalmist writes, “Nachon libi, elohim, nachon libi, ashirah va'azmerah/Steadfast is my heart, God, steadfast is my heart, Let me sing and praise in song!” (Psalms 57:8).
I pray for the steadfastness of my heart. May it be open enough to receive the abundant love in my life. May it be strong enough to give the love it feels. Together, may we sing praises of love and joy.
Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha'olam, maqriv r'choqim.
Blessed are You, HaShem, our God, Sovereign of the world, who brings close the far.
Photo courtesy of Nouhailler, via Flickr.
Alex Weissman is a community organizer, performer, and rabbinical student. In addition to his rabbinical studies, he works as a hospice chaplain and a mentor to teenagers involved in multifaith dialogue. He has worked with Jewish and queer communities over the last ten years around issues of HIV/AIDS, domestic workers' rights, substance use, partner abuse, and queer youth homelessness. He believes deeply in sacred listening as a practice for healing, building relationships, and pursuing justice. Originally from the Philadelphia area, Alex has returned after ten years away to attend the Reconstrucionist Rabbinical College.