“See all the keys that God possesses!”
God has the key to life, as it says: “... and God opened Leah’s womb”
God has the key to rain, as it says: “... and God will open for you the storehouse of heaven” (Deuteronomy 28:12).
God as the key to livelihood, as it says, “You open Your hand and lovingly satisfy every living thing.”
(from the 8th century Letters of Rabbi Akiva)
This ancient tradition imagines that God is the Grand Celestial Key-Keeper, the One who oversees life’s storehouses of goods and the gates that keep them secure. Day in and day out, God opens and closes this door and that: now the one to the heavenly pool that falls as rain, now the one to the rays of energy that fall as sunlight, now the one to the pulse of air that rises and falls as breath.
There are times these doors must be open and times they must be closed.
This omer season between Passover and Shavuot, my family borrowed this image of a celestial key chain and made our own “omer counter” (a mnemonic device that helps us keep count of the days as they pass) using “orphaned” keys, that is, keys that no longer have doors of their own, keys whose original locks and treasures and secrets have evaporated, been lost, destroyed or forgotten.
We have appropriated these keys, salvaging their power to open and close doors of matter and recasting them as keys that manage the drama of time.
The colorful strand that grew before us, the daily discipline of adding a-key-a-day, helped to remind us that each day opens to us a new door. At night, upon counting, we would hang a new key. The key of the previous day was spent. It had been used - wisely or not, for better or worse - seeking the right lock to the choices, the experiences, the deeds of that day.
At night, the heir of a new day, a new key was chosen, slipped onto the chain, and let loose to go in search of its chosen door. We need so many keys.
Perhaps what really happens when the celestial Door of Doors opens for a moment at midnight on Shavuot, as the mystics tell us, is that God rains down upon us the gift of a brand new batch of keys.