During these last weeks of confinement, I spent a lot of time in ZOOM in my office, next to my library. The books I love are companions for work and meditation. One of them, published not long ago, has just taken a prominent place, and for a long time I think. Vivre avec nos morts (ed. Grasset, 2021) is a book written by a woman rabbi, Delphine Horvilleur. The first word is actually the one I retain from reading it: LIVING.
Questions of life or death, the current events of the COVID, as we know, are harsh. It highlights the fragility of each of our existences and of the human condition, in all social circles, under all latitudes, today in an appalling manner in India.
In her book, Delphine Horvilleur also evokes our dead, the people close to us who have died and marked our lives.
This universal experience of limits and death is inherent to life. Because we are always in the process of becoming, we die to what we have been, to be born to what we are not yet.
We are each a little like Jacob. In the Genesis story, the rabbi comments, Jacob is the one who is limping, he is between two states, he is not finished becoming, he accepts to be wobbly, that is to say "almost himself". Jacob has a future, as his Hebrew name written in the future tense shows. Jacob-Yaakov means "to be followed"; the story does not end here, it always continues, we are humanly united to each other, "there is a possibility of being One" as all of Jacob's relatives sing, gathered around his deathbed.
"Living with our dead" and its 222 pages tell a thousand and one anecdotes, and upsetting and sometimes dramatic encounters, always in a fair way, and often with humor. "Living with ... ", living with brokenness until trial and death is the exploration of Jewish thought that the woman rabbi undertakes, resorting neither to certainties nor to dogmas. Delphine Horvilleur understood that she was a "secular rabbi" as she was told, in front of the survivors of Charlie Hebdo, by the sister of Elsa Cayat, the shrink of "Charlie" murdered on January 7, 2015. For Delphine Horvilleur offers in her book not only a life lesson, but also a teaching by experience of what is French secularism. In her words, it is "the defense of a land that is never full, the awareness that there is always a place for a belief that is not ours. Secularism says that the space of our lives is never saturated with beliefs, and it always guarantees a place left empty of certainties. It prevents one faith or one belonging from saturating the whole space. In this, in its own way, secularism is a transcendence. It affirms that there always exists within it a territory greater than my belief, which can welcome that of another who has come to breathe in it."
In such words, a source of life flows.