I once believed in an external destiny, and I thought that my job was to get it right, to find my truth and actualize it. This belief was most acute — and terrifying — when my husband and I were in the process of adopting a child. Our child, one of 145 million orphans, was somewhere in the world and I had to intuit his or her location and identity. What if I failed and someone else raised my child? Or worse, what if he or she never got a home and family? I looked through the magazines and websites, scanning child after child, wondering: Are you mine?
Where would I find the divine signs? How would I know if they were real?
We had chosen the name Adar for a son long before we found him (we had two daughters at the time). My husband, Yosef, had said: “We’ll find our son on Purim” (the holiday falls on the 15th day of the month of Adar). On Purim, we made sure that the girls were occupied with a game downstairs, closed the door to our attic home office, and called the orphanage. A baby boy had just been brought in. They had not even listed him on the website when we nabbed him. “Don’t you want to wait for his bio and medical report?” the orphanage director asked. “No,” we said. “He’s ours.” Purim is a day of determined confusion, but it was our day of clarity.
Within a year, we brought Adar home from Addis Ababa. Now, with three small children, questions of destiny sat at the bottom of my list of concerns, which included the prevention of lunch boxes from turning to mold and piles of laundry from becoming avalanches. But in the following years, immersed in the mundane, I came to understand how our son became our son. I was right; it was destiny. But I was wrong about my understanding of destiny. Our child did not wait like a prize at the end of a maze. The paths were of our making, cleared using the tools at our disposal — the legal process and, more powerfully for me, the language of our tradition. The paths we took didn’t follow a north star of destiny; they created a reality we called destiny.
Our forefather Abraham turned to the stars to read his future and he didn’t like what he saw. He said to God, “I have read my zodiac and see that I am never to have offspring.” God lifted Abraham above the firmament, and Abraham looked at the stars from above. “Those who are placed below the stars are afraid of them,” God said. “But you who are placed beyond them — hold your head high at the sight of them.” (a loose translation of Genesis Rabbah 44:12)
We are not meant to read our futures according to existing constellations, but to see possibilities and chart our own course.
Yosef and I took what was above us and within us — God and our relationship with God as made real by our Jewish lives — and, with those tools, and the more objective processes of adoption, we moved forward.
On his deathbed, the patriarch Jacob — who, many years earlier, had wrestled with a mysterious ish, a man or angel or God, and who used that wrestling to reveal and create himself as Yisrael — brought his sons to him with a promise to reveal the future to them. Instead, he described them, named their characteristics, their roles, and the means by which their fu-tures would be both invented and discovered.
Invention and discovery are intertwined. Unlike God, we do not create ex nihilo — from nothing. Discovering allows us to invent. Inventing leads us to further discovery. And the cycle continues, spirals outward, upward, and forward.
Creation is revelation, and that revelation lights our path, a path laid in a mosaic of stones — red stones of creation, gold stones of revelation, and, dotted here and there, small but bright stones of tehelet, the unknowable blue — brief moments of redemption, signs that, perhaps, our plans and God’s have touched.email print