Are You there, God? It’s me, Debbi

I cannot count the number of times I read Judy Blume’s book, “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret.” This treasured, young adult novel offered me faith that the gift of puberty would bless me one happy day. I would behold an image in my mirror that resembled more of a young woman than a little girl, I prayed and hoped. 

“Are You there, God? It’s me, Debbi Levy. I am trying not to gossip or tattle on my brother, will You help me grow?” I petitioned. 

“Are You there, God? It’s me again, Debbi Levy. Thank You for my new Trapper-Keeper notebook and my Dallas Cowboys helmet pencil sharpener, and thank You, too, God, for the new bell on my purple Schwinn bicycle. Thank You, thank You, thank You, God, for all my new stuff!”

And again: “Are You there, God? It’s me, Debbi Levy. I’m here at Lamplighter, my school, so if You’re looking for me, I’m in the chicken coop. I’m collecting and washing the eggs from our very own chickens and I can’t believe how different they all are! The chickens come right to me for food, and they are so much prettier than in a storybook. I can’t believe all You’ve made, God.”

In the ‘70s, pop culture taught me the valuable lessons that I put into practice each day. Judy Blume’s cutting-edge novel for growing girls was only one of the impactful themes of that time period. So many of our television sitcoms contained scenes of children uttering bedtime prayers before they fell asleep. Never mind that some of those iconic child stars knelt beside their beds with folded hands, message received! Pray before bed. Offer God a thankful recap. In short, praise, thank and even petition God. Pop culture made seeking God a mainstream and pretty cool experience for me.

The sukkah at Temple Emanu-El religious school did such a number on my senses that it has remained with me my whole life. There was a shiny, new red book for keeps about the festival of Sukkot, held tightly by me, as my class entered the sukkah at our assigned time. Real fruit everywhere, palm fronds and lulavs, straw and gourds, all contributed to the harmony of my class feeling and embodying nurturance under that thatched roof. Both my Jewish education and my Jewish roots sacredly filled in the missing pieces that pop culture could not. I had the joy of being surrounded by Jewish people in the customs and laws that bind us in a loving contract. It was good to be in the sukkah with my class and tell my mom all about it when she picked up my brother and me from “Sunday school.”

“Are You there, Shekinah? It’s me, Debbi Levy. I am so thankful to be back home here in Dallas, Texas, and I am in awe of all that has unfolded around me. Falling in love at the age of 50 and welcoming grandchildren into my world is surely a taste of Gan Eden. Will You keep me in good health that I may continue to fulfill your mitzvot and do all that I am able as I take responsibility for my part in tikkun olam? Will You bless my family and friends that they may do the same? Will You bless my greater community and all who seek You in prayer and thanksgiving, and even in petition? Will You, Eternal One, continue to hear us, as we yearn for your presence, whether we are 10 years old or 110 years old? We want so much to experience Your warmth and Divine spark as we converse with You. God? Are You still there? Amen. Selah. This is Debbi Levy signing off for now.”


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