Friday, October 26, 2007

People die every day / for lack / of what is found there

In one of William Carlos Williams poems he wrote:

It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die every day
for lack
of what is found

When I think about how I feel when I am at my best and listening to Rav Michael Rosensweig's shiurim, this poem rings true.

In many, many ways it is difficult for me to get clear information or specific "spiritual" ideas or concepts from Rav Rosensweig's shiurim (i.e. "news"). What I can get from them is something far more important. Something that I would argue "people are dying for every day" -- dying, metaphorically from a loss of meaning, from a loss of creativity and passion.

At their best, poems help us focus on the particulars of our lives and find meaning within them, but we are not supposed to find answers in those poems. Only appreciation and perhaps more questions, but most importantly love -- love of the life we are given.

A few lines from another poem come to mind here. They are from Rilke's Ninth Duino Elegy:

. . . Perhaps we are only here in order to say: house,
bridge, fountain, gate, pitcher, fruit-tree, window—
at most: column, tower … But to say them,
you must understand, oh to say them more intensely than the Things
themselves ever dreamed of existing. (translated by Stephen Mitchell)
Perhaps it is this type of intensity that Rav Rosensweig means when he writes about:

For Rav Rosensweig it is never a desire to find ways around the halakhah, but only a constant search to understand the "maximalist halachic lifestyle" ever more deeply and broadly. This, I believe, is why his shiurim range throughout the entire range of the Talmud. He is not simply focused on a daf or a mishnah or a gemara, but instead the entire Talmud and all commentaries on in conversation and Rav Rosensweig is always trying to find something new, to discover, a new chiddush, a new creation . . . it is this creativity and intensity that I believe on can connect to the art of poetry.

Rav Rosensweig's writings can be found at

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