The familiar story begins with creation, makes its way through myriad twists and turns, generations upon generations, family love and family feuds, triumph and loss, and finally to redemption, and then, almost immediately, to revelation. Creation – redemption – revelation: the three points of one triangle of the Star of David that Franz Rozensweig elaborates upon in The Star of Redemption; creation – redemption – revelation: the ever-recurring points of connection with the Holy One of Blessing that began the history of the universe and human kind and the Jewish people and that repeat themselves in our communal experiences and through the days and weeks and months and years of our individual lives. Deep, important, sacred experiences that give meaning to our existence.
Last week we read of redemption. This week we read of revelation. And all around us is creation.
Redemption. Every day, in our liturgy we remember redemption. We remember it with words from the Song of the Sea – words Moses recited after miraculously emerging from between a rock and a hard place, from between the encroaching Egyptian army and the forbidding Sea of Reeds: Mi chamocha ba’elim Adonai – “Who is like you among the gods, Adonai? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, doing wonders?” (Ex. 15:11 and daily liturgy) We remember it in the words of Torah included in the Shema – “I am Adonai your God who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the Lord your God,” (Num. 15:41) recited every morning and every evening.
Revelation. In the Talmud, the rabbis engage in a lengthy discussion regarding the fact that “all agree that the Torah was given to Israel on the Sabbath,” and from this we come to understand that every Shabbat is a mini day of revelation. (Talmud Shabbat 86b)
Creation. All we have to do is look around and we can see the created world. But creation “…is not an act that happened…once and for ever….the act of bringing the world into existence is a continuous process….Every instant is an act of creation…” (The Sabbath, Abraham J. Heschel, p. 100) We are partners with God in creation throughout our lives. “If a man wishes to attain the rank of holiness, he must become a creator of worlds,” and the “most fundamental principle of all is that man must create himself.” (Halakhic Man, Joseph Soloveitchik, pp. 108-9)
All three – creation, redemption, and revelation are on-going.
But so are the tension and the destruction and the hopelessness. Tension – among the ones we love, be they human, animal, vegetable, or mineral; destruction – both human-caused and natural; hopelessness – despair of positive change taking place, fear of “the end of the world as we know it.” (R.E.M. lyrics)
And yet, we humans live and breathe and grow and love and argue and laugh and cry. We exist in a paradox. Our feet stand on solid ground – solid matter that is conserved and not created anew or ever destroyed. Our souls and our spirits rest in the realm of the Divine, eternal, timeless, beyond space and time.
To stay sane and function in this physical/spiritual world, to find happiness and joy, to find “a rest of love and magnanimity, a rest of truth and faith, a rest of peace and serenity and tranquility and security, a perfect rest” (Shabbat liturgy, Mincha Amidah) we need to engage in creation, redemption, and revelation, and to overcome tension, destruction, and hopelessness. Joseph Campbell, in The Power of Myth, describes how we face both darkness and light in life and the power of acknowledging both realities as part of the whole. He emphasizes, regarding those who are effective and heroic, that, “Although they stand at the neutral point between darkness and light, they always leaned into the light.” (quoted from Leadership from the Inside Out, Kevin Cashman, p. 28)
Leaning into the light. How do we do it? Messages both of the need to do so and of how to do so are myriad and come from many traditions. We don’t have to look far to find such words.
In the beginning God created the heaves and the earth… (Gen. 1:1)
In the time that the Holy One created the first human, he took him to all the trees of the Garden of Eden and said to him, ‘See my works, how lovely and praiseworthy they are, and all that I created, for your sake I created it. Put your mind [to this], that you don’t ruin or destroy my world, for if you ruin it there is no one who will repair after you.” (Kohelet Rabbah on Eccl. 7:13)
The whole world is a very narrow bridge, and the essence is not to be afraid at all. (Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav)
If we are upset about our problems, we have two problems — the problem, and our upset about it. Most people want to have the fewest number of problems possible. So when we learn how to more calmly accept a personal problem, not only do we feel better, but we usually put ourselves in a better position to make use of our intelligence, knowledge, energy, and resources to resolve the problem. (National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapists, www.nacbt.org/whatiscbt.htm)
What you bring forth out of yourself from the inside will save you. What you do not bring forth out of yourself from the inside will destroy you. (Gospel of Thomas)
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from Adonai, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2)
May the One who makes peace in heaven, bring peace to us and to all of Israel and to all the Earth’s inhabitants. (Daily liturgy, modern version, Kaddish)
Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul… (Emily Dickenson)
There are many more – any brief search will reveal ever so many more useful words and sayings and truths.
But the non-words are important, too, and are within us – the breaking down of walls and the opening up that allows for flow, the flowing outward of our love and our trust and the courage that allows us to feel connected, and the letting in of the energy and love flowing outward from others and through the universe. Our connection to the stars and moon and Sun and solid Earth, our connection to each other and to all that lives, and when we let all those connections grow and strengthen and let our awareness of them grow we become one with all that is. We are the stars and the stars are us. There are no boundaries and all is connected. All is One. We are at peace and know who we are. And then everything makes sense.
I want to live till even the words in my mouth are nothing
but vowels and consonants, maybe just vowels, just soft sounds,
the soul inside me is the last foreign language I’m learning.
I want to live until all the numbers are sacred….
And there is no number to the days and then …
even infinity will be sacred and then, only then will I find perfect rest. (Yehuda Amichai)
That is when we become true leaders – of ourselves, our friends, our families, our communities, and workplaces, and our world.
And then all is One.
by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen