Moving Beyond The Limitations Of The Now
I tried for “hi” and will try again, but I just seem to have a problem with not referring to you as friends. SO for today, we are back to the old fashioned greeting.
First the good stuff. Tonight is Aviva Kassel’s wedding! Another simchah of an entirely different kind is Nadia Marks exhibit. She will be presenting her art along with the Who’s Who of Israeli religious artists. The event is scheduled to take place in the gorgeous Aish HaTorah building in the Old City.
What gives me an especially great dolop of joy is that (although as you know I am not the most aesthetically sensitive person in the world) I like the kind of art in which the line that separates your inner world and your outer world meld. This takes place often in really good photography, and even more often when you train your eye to see it happen. There are times and places where this is the norm. The Bais HaMikdash was that sort of a place. The unbreakable partitions that separate Now from Tomorrow and Yesterday disappeared. The same thing happened in this week’s parshah when Moshe assembled the entire Jewish people from its greatest to the most invisible members including those who had not yet been born. Moshe informed the people he addressed that this was happening. They knew that they were experiencing a moment in which the lines fade.
It isn’t always easy to get beyond the limits of the moment you are in. Sometimes things that you know (even at the time) that what feels so important now, will be forgotten in a very short time, you just can’t tear down the barrier. You are stuck in NOW with all of its artificial bells and whistles. It is also easy to get stuck in NOW emotionally. You can easily lose track of the fact that the moment you are in is part of a continuum. I saw a fascinating halachah that talks about looking at reality with walls and limitations, or moving beyond walls and limitations. During the time that the Bais HaMikdash stood going up to Yerushalaim was one of the most central events in people’s lives. The journey in those days could be quite lengthy, and it was made at least three times a year, for Succot, Pesach and Shavuot. When they arrived, the people would offer various sacrifices. The word for sacrifice in Hebrew is “korban” which is rooted in the word “karov” which means, “near”. Ramban explains that there are forces that distance us from G-d, and that the function of the korban was for the one bringing it to meditate on the way his choices have taken him, and to give him the inner strength to redefine his path so that the animal self is no longer his master. The effect of course is to tear down a wall. One of the sacrifices made on the three holidays was called the korban reiya- when you see (and are seen). The Talmud lists which groups of people don’t do this offering. One is a person with one eye. When you consider that having one eye isn’t really such a grave handicap (compared too many handicaps), it leaves you wondering. Some of you may even have heard of the famous Israeli general and later Prime Minister Moshe Dayan, who lost an eye in battle but was never held up by this disability in any way. Ben Yehoyada takes up this question and points out that the fact that we have two eyes tells you that there are two ways of seeing. This is true physically, and it is certainly true spiritually. Your inner eye sees things the way your soul envisions life. Since you are in G-d’s image, your vision in a certain sense stems from the way He “sees” life. If you really want to know the implication of this statement, you have to look towards Him. When the Torah uses anthropomorphisms to describe G-d, each one is selected with profound meaning sometimes hidden in the metaphor given. When you talk about G-d’s Eye, you don’t mean anything physical. You mean the way He chooses to view and responds to events. One “eye” is what we will call “chessed”, meaning He chooses to respond to us in a way that we the outpouring of His kindness. When you get the perfect job, or perfect shidduch, you can’t help but noticing all of the steps along the way that took you there, and at that point you can feel the chessed Hashem’s interventions in your life. The other “eye” is what we call “gvurah” which means power. Sometimes Hashem’s responses leave you trembling. When things don’t go the way you would like, leaving you feel vulnerable, in pain, and hopeless, you can’t help but recognize the limitations of your own control over life. You may know that G-d is concealing His kindness to force you into choice-making and submission to a force that is greater than your ego. You may also know that this is the only way to ever become the person you want to be. Emotionally it is hard to see the positivity at these times. Stretch yourself. Reflect on the many things that took place in your life were uninterpretable at the time, but became clear later. You may have to go beyond yourself and look at the heroes such as Avraham who became greater and greater as he passed more and more test. You should be elastic! Get to the place that you can say honestly that you bless Hashem’s unending kindness for the good and bless Him for challenging you by the force of His concealing His kindness when He tests you. You are now ready for step two. There are people whose presence in your life is an undisguised blessing. When you look at them, you can’t help seeing how something of Hashem’s kindness is integrated into their hearts and souls. There are others who you may have to think deeply about who they are, how they affected you and the only color you see is black. They were critical, petty, demeaning, or worse. It is easy to file them away under The Bad Guys. You have another option. You can recognize them as people who are complex, flawed, and in your life to challenge you to move beyond rejection. This is what seeing with two eyes is all about. If you can’t see with two eyes, you can’t really experience what offering the korban reiya would have brought you to in the Bais HaMikdash. You are going through life without real depth perception.
This is true when you reflect on your own life. You have to see the parts of you that are great and potentially great. You also have to resist escaping from the parts of you that are limiting or even repulsive, and let them challenge you.
The practical side of this is to judge yourself and others with depth. The result will be liking yourself and others better, being kinder to yourself and to them. It also will (hopefully) take you to being willing to learn more and grow more and nurturing yourself.
Love, and best best wishes for a ketiva vechatima tovah- that you be written and inscribed for a good and SWEET year.
The Foundations of Tish B’Av – Modiin, July 30th, 2014
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