We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Generosity of the Heart, Nedivut ha-lev

Beltane                                                                             Mountain Moon

20180228_182023Another recovery hallmark. Kate drove yesterday, went out on her own for the first time since March 22nd! The bank, a few groceries, gas. When doing these errands feels routine, they can be mindless or even a nuisance; but, this sort of moment allows us a glimpse into the ordinary miracles that make up what we think of as normal, usual. We can get up from the chair, pick up the keys, start the car, drive to the grocery store, the gas station, the bank.

So different from not being able to get out of the chair, being unable to pick up the keys, being too physically impaired to drive. That milk, the bread, the full gas tank, the money in your pocket then become unobtainable. Not a nuisance, not something to go through as if by habit. No. These are vital, though small, increments of  life, necessary and significant in themselves. Worthy of attention, even celebration.

nedivut ha lev6Mussar Vaad Practice Group last night. Vaad = sharing without comments. Mussar = Jewish ethics focused on developing middah, character traits. This is a group, partly because of its nature, partly because of its members that has become a Woolly Mammoth equivalent for me, a place where I can be transparent, share, look inside, gain from the ancientrails that others walk.

Marilyn brought in an article about a child of pogrom survivors. This woman felt she had  to be perfect, show that she was worth saving, worth the sacrifices her parents made. An awful burden. She started her own company by the age of 30, then slowly fell apart in her thirties. Discovering compassion, nedivut ha lev, generosity of the heart, led her to a new way of life. In particular she talked about self-compassion. “Talk,” she said, “to yourself as you would to a good friend.”

Snowing here this morning, fat heavy flakes. Rained and snowed yesterday. All moisture good, welcome.

 

 

Experiencing Joy to Learn More About Joy

Imbolc                                                                           New Life Moon

joy chauvetBefore we got to Beth Evergreen yesterday, we stopped at Safeway. Kate had a fun idea. She would buy bite size Almond Joy candy bars and have them for everyone. While in the store, she also found some yellow roses and bought enough to give each person around the table a flower to take home. Though she had to settle for full size Almond Joys, the idea was still there and the flowers were a gentle, beautiful and fragrant memento of the time together.

Kate’s idea for teasing out experiences of joy over a lifetime worked well, too. After she began the afternoon with a chant/song of her own devising, Kate led us in a Hebrew blessing for torah study. She explained how to use her chart with single digit, adolescent, and adulthood as columns.

joy of cookingWe then spent an hour plus in an energetic sharing, each person picking one instance from each column. The responses were as varied as the people in the room and the time frames to which they returned while filling them out. “Getting my pilot’s license.” “Grandchildren.” “First kiss.” “Traveling alone, being alone in a strange place.” “Throwing rocks up so bats would follow them down.” “Playing hide and go seek.” “Having sex and finding out you’re not pregnant.” The general tone was joyful, celebratory as we both learned more about each other and got to share in each other’s joy.

When everybody had offered their experiences, I asked if we could use that content to try to define joy. How do we know joy when we see it, feel it?

flowcsikszentmihalyiHere are several words and phrases offered: Joy requires authenticity. It has a definite physiological, embodied component. Joy flows; you can’t hoard it; it’s contagious. Joy mixes awe and gratitude. Many people identified natural settings as joyful. Joy is transpersonal, often involving connection, (I would say intimacy.) with animals, other people, places. We get outside of ourselves, beyond ego, become one with whatever causes our joy. Being with children, especially grandchildren. Constant learning is a source of joy. Degas. Joy is transformative. Joy ignites gratitude. Joy is quiet and internal; happiness loud and external. Joy is a choice.

We skirted the issue, for this afternoon, of the links between joy and sadness, joy and gratitude, joy and generosity. For another time.

We ended with deciding on a practice. A few shared theirs. It was a bright moment and made more joyful for me by sharing the leadership with Kate.

 

Handout on Joy

Imbolc                                                                       New Life Moon

This will be given out at Thursday mussar after we’ve completed Kate’s exercise about joy in three life stages and discussed how our experiences might help us define and seek out joy.

Joy   joy brown

Joy    joy brown

 

“Yesterday, Rich and I sat down and had a short chat about it. Is Joy a verb? Is Joy an emotion? Is it a state of mind or being? And it got me thinking.

What if joy is the energy of life? And what it if manifests as a persistent yet invisible glow or aura that emanates from us at all times… sometimes it’s bright and sometimes dim. The more mindful we are of it, the brighter the glow / aura becomes. We can certainly sense when someone is joyful without them telling us, right? We sense their joyfulness even if they don’t speak (is that charisma?) The Dalai Lama emanates joy. I’ve never met him but I imagine he is joyful even when he is sad or ill (which he must be sometimes, right?) But how can you be sad or ill and still be joyful?

Maybe joy is not a state of well-being, but simply the state of being, period. Not physical, not mental, not emotional, just the fact of being alive is joy. Life is joy. Do trees glow? Do animals glow? Do we feel joy in the forest or in the presence of others? I think so.

My practice is simply going to be to focus on life as joy. Living as joy. Separate from all other things… including pain, sorrow, anger, jealousy. Let me know if you see my glow… because I’ll be looking for yours.”      Ron Solomon, by permission

joy japanese ivory sculpture

In Everyday Holiness Alan Morinis discusses the middot of simplicity. He identifies three levels of simplicity: acquiring less, becoming happy with what you already have, and nothing more to need. This last level, he says, sets joy free in the heart. “Released from craving and the relentless pursuit of more material satisfactions, perfectly content with what is, the heart bubbles forth with joy that is its potential and natural inclination.”

Marilyn Saltzman found this quote by the Dali Lama: “We can experience happiness at the deeper level through our mind, such as through love, compassion and generosity. What characterizes happiness at this deeper level is the sense of fulfillment that you experience. While the joy of the senses is brief, the joy at the deeper level is much longer lasting. It is true joy.” “The Book of Joy” by Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama

A few synonyms from Roget: delight, gladness, rapture, exaltation, exhilaration, transport, abandonment, ecstasy, rejoicing

OED: Joy, sb. (substantive), 1. A vivid emotion of pleasure arising from a sense of well-being, or satisfaction; the feeling or state of being highly please or delighted, exultation of spirit; gladness, delight.  2. A pleasurable state or condition; a state of happiness or felicity; esp. the perfect bliss or beatitude of heaven; hence, the place of bliss, paradise.  Joy, v. (verb), 1 To experience joy; to find or take pleasure; to enjoy oneself. 2. To feel or manifest joy; to be glad; to rejoice, exalt.  3. To fill with joy; gladden; delight

Presentation on Joy

Imbolc                                                                              New Life Moon

 utagawa hiroshige

utagawa hiroshige

Got it. Kate’s idea for eliciting instances of joy in three different life stages will start us out. Then, for those who are willing, we’ll share as many as possible. From that sharing we’ll see if we can define joy, how do we know it when we feel it, see it? Once we’ve done that we’ll try to discover how to incite, embrace, encourage joy as often as we can.

Goals. 1. identify joy in our lives, in the present and the past.  2. experience as much of the joy as we can again, through sharing our own and listening to others. 3. tease out the elements of joy. what is it? 4. Figure out a practice that will increase our joy in the coming month.

I’m also going to prepare a handout for the very end with other people’s thoughts on joy, including Ron’s, below.

joy-of-life matisse

joy-of-life matisse

“Yesterday, Rich and I sat down and had a short chat about it. Is Joy a verb? Is Joy an emotion? Is it a state of mind or being? And it got me thinking.

What if joy is the energy of life? And what it if manifests as a persistent yet invisible glow or aura that emanates from us at all times… sometimes it’s bright and sometimes dim. The more mindful we are of it, the brighter the glow / aura becomes. We can certainly sense when someone is joyful without them telling us, right? We sense their joyfulness even if they don’t speak (is that charisma?) The Dalai Lama emanates joy. I’ve never met him but I imagine he is joyful even when he is sad or ill (which he must be sometimes, right?) But how can you be sad or ill and still be joyful?

Maybe joy is not a state of well-being, but simply the state of being, period. Not physical, not mental, not emotional, just the fact of being alive is joy. Life is joy. Do trees glow? Do animals glow? Do we feel joy in the forest or in the presence of others? I think so.

My practice is simply going to be to focus on life as joy. Living as joy. Separate from all other things… including pain, sorrow, anger, jealousy. Let me know if you see my glow… because I’ll be looking for yours.”   Ron Solomon

 

 

Simcha

Imbolc                                                                           New Life Moon

Matisse

Matisse

“The noun simcha is mentioned in the Bible 94 times and is derived from the verb samach, which appears 154 times in the text. It is rooted in the Akkadian word shamahu meaning sprout or flourish.” Simcha, The Dayton Jewish Observer

A thing of beauty is a joy forever. So says Keats in his Endymion. Kate and I are leading the mussar class on Thursday, focused on joy and sadness. What else is a joy forever?

Most of the material I’ve read about joy distinguishes it from pleasure with a time distinction. A bite of food, a kiss, a winning hand, a new toy brings pleasure in the moment, but the pleasure dissipates quickly. Joy, to paraphrase Keats, is a thing of beauty forever. Joy, in other words, is lasting.

Rabbi Jamie says true joy can be recalled and experienced again whenever we want. Not fully sure about that, but a finger on the scale in favor of a lasting experience seems right to me.

Chagall, Fiddler

Chagall, Fiddler

Kate has come up with an exercise that will get us started on considering joy in our own lives. She designed a sheet with three columns: single-digit, adolescence, adult. We will write as many instances of joy as we can recall from each of these life phases. My hope is that in telling our stories of joy that we can experience them again and help others experience them with us.

How can we increase joy in our lives? Can we? (A)…rabbinic teaching concerning simcha points to the inner self as the source of contentment and joy. “Aizehu ashir? Hasameach bechelko, Who is rich? He that rejoices in his own portion (Avot 4:1).” ibid

So at least part of joy is perspective. What makes our life rich? Joyful? Knowing what is enough. What is enough? No less than we need, no more than we require. This seems to link joy to gratitude. If we have enough, we are grateful for what we have. Our life gains in simplicity since we don’t end up on the constantly promoted hedonic treadmill.

With simplicity, then, we know deep satisfaction. Not only do we have enough, but we do not waste our energy and our worry on getting more. Ah.

Joy yoshitoshiLast week at mussar we had a fascinating conversation on the essential dourness of both Jewish and northern European cultures stimulated by the Norwegian concern that they had won too many medals in the winter Olympics. In both cases happiness, and by correlation, joy, are suspect. Why are you so happy? What makes you think that will last?

In the Jewish instance this trait seems to correlate with the multiple times in Jewish history, starting with slavery in Egypt, that a golden age or at least a comfortable existence had been destroyed by pogroms, the expulsion from Spain, the holocaust. Are you happy now? Just wait.

In the northern European instance it seems to have more to do with seriousness. “For the soul is dead that slumbers, And things are not what they seem. Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal; “Dust thou art, to dust returnest,” Was not spoken of the soul.” Psalm of Life, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

early cave painting

early cave painting

Both cultures, in other words, find joy and delight and glee and exultation, ecstasy and exhilaration suspicious at best and distracting at worst. Distracting from what? From the possibility of life’s stability being snatched away in an instance. From the need to keep the shoulder to the grindstone, quite literally. From the guardedness that protects us from disappointment, suffering, pain. Joy may make us vulnerable.

So it’s no wonder that joy is a middot, a character trait that needs cultivation. The soil for it is rocky, like that in our backyard here on Shadow Mountain, at least in these two cultures.

Joy Brown, creative joy

Joy Brown, creative joy

How to do that? I chose to scan my life looking for joyful moments. My hope is that I can begin to identify in the now, embrace them, live in them. Looking at my list (it’s posted here.) I can see some common threads. Intimacy: seeing Orion at night, dogs nuzzling, the mountain night sky full of stars, hugging Kate, hearing from Tom, Bill, Mark, seeing them. Challenging myself: learning Latin, using my sumi-e brushes, grinding ink, having a new idea, reading a new book, writing ancientrails. Letting the world in: driving over Kenosha pass and seeing South Park laid out ahead, the golden aspen among the lodgepoles on Black Mountain, paying close attention to the natural world. Being in community: working with Marilyn and Tara and Anshel, setting up for adult education events at Beth Evergreen, having an idea, sharing it, seeing something happen. Travel: hearing the howler monkeys on the road to Angkor, leaving for a trip, rolling retreats (roadtrips), the earthen smells when getting off the plane on Maui, Kauai, Hawai’i. Inner moments: the moment of mystical connection with the universe in 1967, meditation, remembering the two year old me who learned to walk after polio, mindful cooking.

One track for increasing the joy in my life then would be to seek intimate moments, identify new ways to challenge myself, stay alert and let the world in, continue at Beth Evergreen, travel, allow time to cultivate the inner life.

 

“On the bright side, simcha is a word laden with exhilaration and festive activities. Simcha expresses not only the joy of an event, but it is also the noun which means a happy event.

A holiday is a simcha, a family gathering is a simcha, a wedding is a simcha, the birth of a child is a simcha and a Bar or Bat Mitvah is a simcha.

The host of an event is a baal simcha and the sound of joy resonating from the event is kol simcha.

Simchat yetzirah, a joy of creativity, is a way to describe the exhilaration one feels while being engaged in a creative process…

(A)…rabbinic teaching concerning simcha points to the inner self as the source of contentment and joy. “Aizehu ashir? Hasameach bechelko, Who is rich? He that rejoices in his own portion (Avot 4:1).” ibid

 

Yesterday

Imbolc                                                                        New Life Moon

vicious cycle

vicious cycle

Back to On the Move Fitness for my second session on the new workout. Unusually, I experienced significant discomfort in my hip, quad and lower back after Debbie gave me the new workout on Tuesday. Not the result desired. We both suspected the one leg squats, so she took those out and put in goblin squats, which I’d been doing, holding a weight in both hands in front of your body, then doing a squat. Repeat.

Getting new workouts every 4-6 weeks has been really good for me, keeps things fresh and allows somebody who knows what they’re doing to design progressions into the exercises. And, to pull back when necessary. My leg work will be less intense for the next couple of weeks. Still ouching, but not nearly as bad as Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

Debbie said something odd when I was there on Tuesday. “You’re moving a lot better now than when you first came in. But even then you had a basic strength.” She attributed it to our having Irish Wolfhounds because they’d come up in conversation about her new rescue dog, Finnigan. In fact I’ve been working out since I turned 40 and did often heavy manual labor in Andover for twenty. She saw me about six weeks after I’d finished p.t. for the new knee, so I was not in the best shape. It made me feel good for someone to recognize the effort I’ve put in to keep my body functional.

eudaimonia4Thursday afternoon mussar. Talking about joy and sadness, how to cultivate joy. The middot of this month. Middot = character trait. Though the discussion was good, the time immediately afterwards was even better. I shared in vaad (speaking into the group, with no feedback. Concentrated listening.) about melancholy, being there now and having learned to listen to the melancholy instead of trying to fix it. Waiting it out.

After the class brokeup, a guy said he had the same experience , “After my dad died, when I was 50. Since then, every year.” A human moment. Then I spoke to a woman who’d been away for a couple of months. They’d been tough for her and we talked for awhile. Another woman, who played Queen Esther in the Purim play the night before, when complimented on her acting, said, “I just lived out my inner Jewish princess.” We all laughed. This is a group that cares about each other, about the journey, the ancientrail that is life.

Next week Kate and I are presenting. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

Points of Joy and the Point of Joy

Imbolc                                                                     New Life Moon

joyEach month the mussar vaad practice group members choose a way to focus on a middot, the middot, or character trait, we’re practicing for the month. This month’s middot is simcha, Joy.

Here’s my practice: Identify what brings/brought joy in my life. Then, try to experience those things as often as I can and, as much as possible, let them infuse the rest of my life.

First up, what brings joy?

  1. dogs nuzzling.
  2. the mountain night sky full of stars
  3. snow falling among the lodgepole pines
  4. writing ancientrails
  5. making supper for Kate and myself
  6. hugging Kate
  7. seeing friends at Beth Evergreen
  8. hearing from Tom, Bill, Mark. seeing them.
  9. having a new idea
  10. learning something new
  11. reading a new book
  12. finishing a hard workout
  13. driving over Kenosha Pass and seeing South Park laid out ahead
  14. driving over Guanella Pass
  15. seeing Ruth smile and her nose wrinkle up
  16. walking into my loft
  17. looking at art
  18. reading poetry
  19. contemplating the Tao
  20. seeing Orion at night
  21. the golden aspen among the lodgepoles on Black Mountain
  22. having an idea, sharing it, seeing something happen
  23. listening to live jazz
  24. Black Mountain at the golden hour
  25. feeding the dogs
  26. seeing Kepler do his happy dance
  27. eating vegetables Kate and I grew
  28. harvesting honey
  29. slipping into a warm bed on a cold night
  30. seeing mule deer, elk, fox as we drive
  31. the mountains, their streams, the rock
  32. seeing Joe and SeoAh and Murdoch
  33. planting perennials on crisp fall days
  34. planting garlic in September
  35. harvesting raspberries
  36. when my surgeon called, “Clean margins!”
  37. using my new knee pain free
  38. each time my PSA comes back low
  39. working with Marilyn and Tara and Anshel
  40. setting up for adult education events at Beth Evergreen
  41. seeing and spending time with individual trees
  42. using the chain saw (ha. no irony intended here.)
  43. remembering the two-year old me who relearned to walk after polio
  44. that moment of mystical connection with the universe in 1967
  45. the earthen smells when getting off the plane on Maui, Kauai or the Big Island
  46. working out on snowshoes in below zero weather
  47. early morning hikes in Hawai’i
  48. hearing the howler monkeys on the road to the temples of Angkor
  49. performing Joe and SeoAh’s marriage
  50. aging
  51. using my sumi-e brushes, grinding ink
  52. coming home
  53. leaving for a trip
  54. rolling retreats (roadtrip)
  55. mindful cooking
  56. paying close attention to the natural world
  57. meditation

Simcha_It's_Not_Just_HappinessOK. That was a bit surprising. Lots of things bring me joy. And I’m sure there are a lot more, too. Have to spend some time considering how to experience these things more often.

While melancholic, this practice may prove therapeutic. Simply reminding myself of these things that bring me joy has helped me realize the grace in my life. It also triggers gratitude for them, for the contexts that allow them to flourish.

Opening my life to infusions of joy is medicine for the soul. Especially a soul trying to find its way, again. Somewhere in the midst of joy-filled moments is a path forward, clues to the life way that makes my life sing in harmony, not out of key as it is right now.

Siyum

Winter                                                                      Imbolc Moon

Siyum_on_kesubosAn interesting mussar session yesterday. We had a siyum, a new favorite thing. In the rabbinic tradition whenever a group of learners would finish a book or a large section of, say, Talmud, they’d throw a party. This picture of a hasidic or orthodox siyum is exactly like our group except we’re almost all women, don’t wear hats and had much better food.

In this instance we finished a year plus study of the “Messilat Yesharim: the path of the upright” by Rabbi Moses Luzzato. As part of the siyum we each offered a verse from the text that we would carry forward, a sort of summary of the work’s significance to us. I chose a verse which contained the English word omniscience. I replaced it with what I then thought was the Hebrew, permeated knowledge. I also replaced the word God each time it appeared. This was a hermeneutical act both of reimagining and reconstructing.

20180111_143011

Our mussar class under Joseph’s dream and the burning bush

As an example of encountering the knowledge, the sacred knowledge, that permeates the universe, I spoke about the three mule deer bucks who visited me in our backyard, October 31st, 2014 when I came up for the closing on the Shadow Mountain house. We watched each other. I moved a little closer to them, they watched with those large round brown eyes. I moved a little closer, then stopped, not wanting to spook them or reinforce any habituation they might have. They were the spirit of the mountains come to say it was all right for me to be here.

This August, our yard

This August, our yard

But here’s the really interesting part. There were also three mule deer bucks in the grass outside the windows where we studied. Jamie pointed them out, we all looked. Then, several, maybe a quarter of the 20 or so people in the class, recounted their own stories, right around the time they moved to or were considering moving to the Evergreen/Conifer area. There had been welcoming deer, elk and even a bear. All of these accounts were reverential. Each recalled incident added a goose bump or two.

I felt so affirmed in my odd pagan journey, my pilgrimage on this ancientrail I chose so long ago; not because of the response to my choice of verse, but because of the obvious pagan sensibility commonly shared. This sort of shamanic seeing is a part of our human tool kit if we’re not summarily dismissive of it.

Beat the drum slowly friend.

Zerizut. Mother letters.

Winter                                                                     Imbolc Moon

mother letters

mother letters

Oh, my. Two nights out again. Bedtime missed by an hour, two last night. Resilience is not what it used to be and hasn’t been for a long time. Even so. Tuesday night was kabbalah, an exciting evening with Allen Rubin and Jamie investigating the mother letters, mem and shin, which appear on the horizontal linkages above and below aleph on the tree of life. (see previous post about aleph)

zerizutLast night Kate and I had adult Hebrew, then, an hour later, tikkun middot havurah. This is the third of three mussar related times during the month, a once a month gathering for those who’d like to study mussar but can’t make the Thursday afternoon class. The topic was zerizut, or the middot (character trait) of enthusiasm.

January has been tough throughout the nation, I believe, with H3N2 devastating many and a general malaise allowing other less severe illnesses to gain a foothold, too. The energy level for our discussion of zerizut was ironically low because of this, I think. A lot of folks seem to have their heads down, shoulders hunched, moving slow and hoping nothing bad happens. Many are waiting for the sun.

Mountain_jewLogoMe, I was just tired. So, the question is, is it worth upsetting my normal rhythms? Yes. Yes, it is. No, not because I’m converting, still not interested. But, I have come to believe that Judaism, at least as practiced in this small mountain synagogue, is about helping humans be better in this life and to use this life to make things better for the other, be the other human or animal or a planet. Synchs up pretty well with my own journey, this ancientrail that has wound from Oklahoma to Indiana, Indiana to Wisconsin, Wisconsin to Minnesota and now, Minnesota to Colorado.

The result of this approach to the religious life is a community where people care about each other, are willing to challenge each other to grow and to support each other in various concrete ways. These long evenings are the energy sources for that work and I’m proud and glad to be part of it. Even if it makes me weary.

 

Reimagining/Reconstructing

Winter                                                                           Moon of the Long Nights

Alan James Garner - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https commons.wikimedia.org

Alan James Garner  Own work, CC BY SA 3.0, https commons wikimedia org

Last night, third night in a row at Beth Evergreen, was the MVP, the mussar vaad practice group. Tuesday was the unveiling of the third stained glass window. Wednesday was the first class of the third in the first year kabbalah curriculum, the Mystical Hebrew Letters. On a personal, physical level this many evening sessions, which extend well beyond my usual 8 p.m. bedtime and then require a half hour ride home afterward, exhaust me. But on a psycho-spiritual level the nourishment I receive more than compensates.

As I wrote this last sentence, I looked up at Black Mountain and noticed a pink glow, a penumbra at its peak. A good symbol for the new understanding that is beginning to dawn on me.

In the mid-day mussar class, where we are near the end of the Messilat Yesharim, the path of the upright, by the 18th century kabbalist, Rabbi Moshe Luzzato, Jamie commented, “Remember, these are kabbalists. They include proof texts as an invitation to rethink them as metaphor, not to accept their literal meaning.” Jamie has said this before, in the kabbalist classes especially. “The Torah is a metaphor, not history.”

Torah being read at a Bar Mitzvah

Torah being read at a Bar Mitzvah

A bit later, he asked, “What is Torah study?” This was a topic we covered over a year ago when beginning Luzzato’s work. Torah study is not about content. It is not, in other words, limited to scholarship about Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Torah study is a method and it involves paying close attention to the person next to you, to the sunrise over Black Mountain, to the cry of a sparrow, to the way a lodgepole pine sloughs off snow, to the needs of the dog sleeping beside your chair. to the nature of fire crackling in the fireplace. Torah study is about loving attentiveness. It is a way of engaging the sacred world which we can know first from within our own person and which permeates that which we encounter throughout our lives.

And, again, aha! The sun, the sacred sun with its life-giving light, just lit up Black Mountain and showed me a sign, a way of illustrating a literally dawning awareness. The wind, the finger of the sacred blows as the ruach, the breath of spirit, the breath of life and moves the lodgepole pines in our front yard. The pines themselves erupt out of the stony Shadow Mountain ground, able to express life in a soil mostly barren of the rich nutrients available in the farmlands of the American Midwest.

Marily, Tara, the Burning Bush

Marilyn, Tara, the Burning Bush

I find this means I can read the word God in a new way. Shortly after Jamie commented on Torah study, we read a sentence in Messilat Yesharim that included the English word omnipresence, as in God’s omnipresence. I asked Jamie what Hebrew lay behind this translation. He looked it up, “Hmm. Something like, permeated knowledge.”

God lit up for me. Ah, if I do Torah study, if I engage in loving attentiveness to my Self, my own Soul, and those of others and of the broader natural world, then I can find the knowledge which permeates all things, that very same shards of the sacred that shattered just after the tzimtzum to create our universe. That is God being available everywhere. This is far different from the Latinate imponderable of omnipresence, sort of an elf on the shelf deity lurking in every spot, finding you everywhere. And judging.

hist_univNo. God is another word for the intimate linkage between and among all things, from the smallest gluon to the largest star. God is neither a superparent nor a cosmic Santa Claus writing down your behaviors in the book of deeds; God is a metaphor for the sacred knowledge which permeates the perceivable, and the unperceivable, world.

Our deeds are, of course, written in the very real book of our life, so they have consequences, not only on our life as whole, but as they impact others and that same world which we all inhabit. You could also see God’s judgment as the manifestation of those consequences, in their positive and negative natures, not as a divine finger shaking or outright punishing, but as ripples from one instance of the sacred to the another.

 

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