Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Retro Pop: The Batphone

WHEN YOU ARE ORDAINED A rabbi or cantor, you get to pick one super power. Some of my classmates chose invisibility, some chose being able to fly. I chose, the Red Phone to God. Modeled after the Batphone from the 70s tv show version of Batman, the Red Phone to God lets you call on God at any time.

I have not used it yet but I have been thinking about it.

In the TV show, Commissioner Gordon reaches for the Batphone kept safe under a glass dome. “I don’t know who it is behind that mask but I know when we need him and we need him now!” and with the touch of a button, the Batphone rings straight through to Batman. Alfred, his concierge/butler/protector answers and passes the call along.

The fantasy is compelling. Whatever our problems are, there is a being out there with the skills, power, desire and capacity to fix them for us. And all we have to do is call.

After two years of ordination, I have yet to use the Red Phone to God. A dear, long-time friend of mine is sick, dying actually, from a particularly nasty and aggressive ovarian cancer. I’m thinking this might be the time to call….

But what do I say? As a friend, I would call and say Hey God, it’s Rachael. I’m just calling to tell you we have a situation here. We all need you to take all the cancer away and make her well, ok? Truthfully, I think this is why we have prayer.

I have the Red Phone because I am a rabbi. Is it fair of me to demand healing for only one person? Is it my right to tell God what to do for one person? Maybe right now God is staving off a tsunami which would kills thousands. If I call and interrupt…imagine what could happen!!

But to not use the Red Phone in this moment…how could I ever forgive myself.

What would you do? What would you say?

I’m trying it now. I lift the glass cover from the red phone with its single button and I press it. My palms are a little sweaty and I take a deep breath. The phone rings once…twice…then a click. No sound on the other end of the line but I sense a presence there. We have a problem and I need to talk to God. Pause…I’ll put you through the voice sounds. He sounds more like George Burns than Alfred…

God? I ask… are you there? I am not sure what I imagined to hear but silence seems pretty reasonable. God, I’m calling to ask for comfort for the afflicted here. I don’t know who are what you are but I know when we need you and we need you now.


I hang up. I am shaking, my heart is racing. Did I ask the right thing? As I put the Red Phone back under its glass cover, I throw on my shoes and head out the door to the hospital.

Rabbi Rachael Bregman is a rabbi at The Temple and Open Jewish Project in Atlanta, Georgia.