For a tick shy of 17 years I wrote a monthly column for JUF News. Before taking the job as editor of the paper I knew I'd call my little patch of ink “The Heart of the Matter.” The name fit my world view, according to which the connections that impel Jewish identity essentially are heartfelt rather intellectual, more spiritual than cerebral. Surely all those dimensions figure significantly, but the door through which I tend to enter is ba'lev, in the heart.
In some 200 columns I wrote about many facets of identity and connection, filtering the world through the organ where our ancestors believed wisdom resides. The heart is gladdened; the heart is saddened; poignancy, pain, and above all love register there.
Love of family, love of the Jewish people, love of Israel—what a privilege it was to write for so many years about all of that. Sometimes I wrote gushingly and breathlessly; sometimes I wrote with righteous indignation; sometimes I might even have written well.
Sometimes I thought my inkwell had run dry, and I would bang my head against the wall to dislodge a droplet of thought before deadline. Whatever I committed to paper I always prayed would resonate with some reader; whenever I heard that it did I was happy.
Most of the time I had no idea where or if my words reached shore. Like messages in a bottle I put them out to sea; for all I knew there they remained, and perhaps are bobbing still and may never make landfall. I like to imagine that years hence some silent reader for some reason I can’t know will stumble across a column in an archive somewhere and that then and there, after I no longer live, I will connect with someone not yet born. That would be the sweetest fate for any writer and his words.
Meanwhile, there's this blog. I'd better get to it.