God Could Be a Little Girl – Neilah
The story is told that once upon a time, Rabbi Dov Bear of Mezritch (d. 1772) was walking down the street and he encountered a very sad little girl, sobbing and crying her eyes out. The Rabbi, alarmed and concerned, stopped and said to the little girl, “Why, what could be the matter? What is wrong? Please calm down! Why are you crying so? What might I do to help you?” Wiping the tears from her cheeks with a trembling hand, the little girl, sobbing softly, tried to explain: “My friends and I were playing a game of Hide and Seek. Finally, it was my turn to hide. I hid and waited and waited for the others to search for me and come and find me. I waited, but they never came. They have all gone home now. No one is even looking for me!” When the Rebbe heard the little girl’s answer, a tear welled up in his eye. He, too, began to cry.
The Hasidim, standing at a short distance, were puzzled by what they were seeing. They said, “Rebbe, what did you see in a children’s game; and in what the child said to you, that moved you to tears?” “Without a doubt,” replied Rabbi Dov Bear, “The ear has lost its cunning and our hearts are too hardened to feel. But, in the answer of the little girl, abruptly it dawned on me what it truly means for God to be hidden from us. Tragically, as frustrating and discouraging as it is for us to pray meticulously, and at great length, and to remain unsure of how our prayers are to be received; there is even a sadder implication for God: God may determine we have given up the search – and it is this revelation that has made me cry.”
Humanity began with a cosmic game of Hide and Seek. At the very beginning, the first week of Creation, Adam hides in shame, and God asks, “Ayecha?” “Where are you?” When man hides, God comes looking. When God hid, Avraham came looking. When our ancestors were driven from their homeland, they managed to find God in a strange land. God found our forebears, who wept and cried out to him in shul; in prayer. We generally think of God’s hiddenness emotionally, as an expression of despair. Or intellectually, as a theological problem about God’s existence. This story asks us to consider God’s perspective. It asks us to imagine God as a young child, puzzled and saddened that we seem to have abandoned the search.
During the repetition of the Neilah amidah, it is our custom to invite each person who is here with us this evening to join us on the bima for a few moments of intimate, quiet connection before our opened ark. This is not the cantor’s bima, nor the President’s bima, nor the rabbi’s bima. It is your bima. The open ark is your ark. Please take a moment to join us. Please continue on your journey, persist in your search. Don’t give up. A little girl may be counting on you.