Confusing, yes? You would expect tallit and tefilin, the natural pair of ritual objects, both beginning with ‘t,’ used in daily davening during morning services. But it was a dream, and in my dream it was tickets and tefilin.
It was a classic dream, with dream tropes that we are all familiar with. I was rushing to leave Baltimore so I could get to a concert in New York City. Everything was taking a few extra minutes, and in the dream that pressing feeling of the clock ticking, of a deadline approaching, was pervasive. I was going to be staying over night and I had packed a small bag. I left my home, went to my friend’s, was waiting in his house for him to grab a couple of things. Then we would be on the road and off to the show!
Suddenly I realized I hadn’t packed my tefilin. I would need them in the morning and am very rigorous about observing at least this mitzvah. I told my friend to wait, I would just be a few minutes. And here is where it gets weird. For whatever reason, I decided to walk to my house. Suddenly I wasn’t in Baltimore, but back in my home town Binghamton NY, walking near the soccer field I played on in high school. The distance was further than I remembered, so I was getting even later. Somehow I found the tefilin and made my way back to my friend’s. We got on the road and were New York City bound.
Then I realized I had also forgotten the tickets! I knew exactly where they were, sitting on top of a book on my bedside table. To go back to get them would take us an extra half hour, but we had no choice. Back it was. We would be late for the show. That feeling of unavoidable lateness, of not being able to control destiny, fate, traffic, whatever it is, was tangible.
What was this all about? What is any dream about? There are threads – I am going to a show in the next couple of days (Phil Lesh in Central Park), and the tickets are sitting on the book on that bedside table. But I’ve never forgotten tickets in my life! (I know, famous last words) And what is with the tefilin? Two possibilities come to my mind. First, the simple truth that music and Judaism have been the two major spiritual influences in my life. Perhaps more on that in another blog. But second, the two objects also symbolize an inherent tension. On the one hand, my personal side (those tickets)! The ability to leave the office behind, to get out on the road and once again experience the freedom of another time. On the other, my professional life (the tefilin), with all of its demands, burdens, challenges.
Now we are getting somewhere. The tefilin called me first and I had to walk to get them. Professional life is at the forefront of my mind. The tickets were almost forgotten entirely, and in this the sense of the professional side consuming the personal. But those tickets were retrieved in the end, and although the dream ended before the show started, my sense was we were going to get there, late or not. Of course even when you get away, a little part of that professional side comes along, like it or not. So the tefilin had to come along for the ride. But if I remember it right, they were somewhere in the trunk.