Monday, December 10, 2012

Is God in your gut?

Although this is not about disability and employment, it tells you a bit about me. I'm on the Temple Sinai Board of Trustees. Each meeting a Board Member gives an interpretation, called a d'rash of that week's Torah Portion. Here is the one I wrote for the 12-12-12 board meeting.

D’var Torah – 12/12/2012

I want to thank Mike Baker for moving the board meeting up a week so that it doesn’t fall on my birthday and the Torah portion is the same one I had 47 years ago. Every time I read about how Joseph interpreted the Pharaoh’s dream, I wonder, ‘how did he do that?’ Where does the ability to interpret dreams and ‘just know something’ come from. Does it come from the gut or does it come from the heart? This year, that question has become especially relevant to me.

As many of you know, this year my disability has become more significant. I stopped driving my van. It is harder to dress and feed myself. My hands feel numb and weak. Two months ago, a MRI showed that the bones in my cervical spine were compressing the spinal cord and they were unstable. My doctors strongly recommended surgery, without which I could find myself needing to be on a respirator. They warned that the instability of the bones may result in my spinal cord being severed. Denise, and many of my family and friends, fearing for my life, insisted I get more information. My gut said that this was not life threatening and that as I age I will need more assistance with or without surgery. My gut told me that accepting more assistance may improve my quality of life by giving me more time and energy. Knowing better than to argue with Denise, we embarked to get more information. Through our contacts with the disability community we found experts all over the US. Connecting with at least 8 different doctors, we got at least 14 different opinions. The consensus was that it is not life threatening or life limiting. Barring unforeseen trauma such as car accidents or bad falls, the cervical bones will probably not sever the cord. Most doctors agreed that even if the surgery was successful, I will need increasingly more assistance as I age. The opinion I appreciated the most was to follow my gut.

During the High Holidays, Rabbi Mates-Muchin reminded us that most of us have very different images of God. For me, God is not this big old guy in the sky but an accumulation of all the knowledge and feelings of every living thing from the beginning of time until now. I fully believe that some people are able to communicate with God. However, for me in this lifetime that is but a spec of time, such communications were never achieved. I attend services not to pray but to listen, learn and think about the myriads of stories and ways people throughout history, have created to help us appreciate what we have and to help us do Tikkun Olam. In November, as I sat in the Shabbat Minyan Service, I thought about the Joseph Story. For the 1st time in all these many years, it hit me that Joseph’s ability to interpret Pharaoh’s dream probably came from his gut. It dawned on me that listening to one gut may be one way people communicate with God.

Rest assured, I am NOT saying that God told me not to have surgery. I promise not to hide behind my gut feelings to avoid doing research.  I just find it so intriguing how we can read the same stories year after year and continue to learn so much from them.

Happy Chanukah!