Fall and the Sukkot Moon
Wednesday gratefuls: Diane. Coming to help me prune. Jogging. Sleep. Acting. Chekhov. The Seagulls. Cool. Shirley Septic and Waste. Kep. Poor guy. Bumping into stuff. Ukraine. Putin. Missiles. Will. Minnesota. Hawai’i. ? Lab draws this morning. Flu shot.
Sparks of Joy and Awe: Hawai’i
Picked Diane up at the Federal Center Station of the RTD yesterday afternoon. Drove back to the Natural Grocers where we picked up supplies. Apples. Aloe Vera juice. Organic fish sticks. Mixed vegetables. Raspberries. Blueberries. Bananas. Tomatoes. Lettuce. Headed back home.
At the Natural Grocers we got into a conversation with the cashier. Where’re you from? San Francisco. Here. Oh, I’m from Hawai’i. Oh, I’m moving to Hawai’i. What Island? Oahu. Oh, I’m from Oahu. The North Shore, where all the surfing is. Yes, I’m going to that side, too. Oh, Kailua, Kane’ Ohe’? Yes.
Diane picked up on my answer and asked about it, given my recent blogs. Oh, just trying to bond with the cashier, I said.
More I thought about it though I realized Hawai’i is still top of mind when I think about moving. And, I’ve been telling people I’m moving to Hawai’i for quite awhile now. An interesting, unbidden piece of information about the move.
Not sure what it means. If anything. But there you are.
Mussar tonight. My turn to lead. Anavah. Humility. A key idea in mussar is taking up the right amount of space. That’s the idea of humility. Neither self-deprecating nor self-aggrandizing, being who you are.
Here’s a Rabbi’s take on anavah.*
How do you experience anavah in your own life? Do you ever take up too much space? Too little? If so, why? How can you create a you that takes up the space you deserve?
One of my favorite stories from the Torah. Jacob and the Angel at the Jabbok Ford.** I see it as an example of anavah. Jacob wrestled with God/the Angel/a man to determine the right amount of space between him and the sacred.
One interpretation is this. Jacob was on a journey, fleeing his brother Esau. He had divided his livestock and servants in two, reasoning that he might escape with half his wealth if his servants encountered Esau. God had come to him in a dream and told him to go to the land of his fathers and God would be with him.
As they crossed the ford of the Jabbok River, Jacob stayed behind. While he was alone, a man came and wrestled with him. Jacob was alone as a result of his struggles with his father-in-law Laban and his brother, Esau.
Jacob had experienced rejection by his father-in-law and his own brother. He had fled them. Who was he now? Was he a man who fought with his closest relatives, made them angry, divided his family? Or, was he a man of the sacred, following a path that was his pilgrimage?
That night beside the river at a ford, places known for their magical qualities, Jacob had to decide who he was. He struggled within himself, trying to decide whether he was a bad brother and a bad son-in-law or was he a good man who had done what was necessary?
In that struggle he learned that he was neither. Or both. When the inner jihad was over, he had a new self-awareness. he was now Israel, for he had experienced the sacred within himself and survived to gain a clear identity, an authentic Self.
*Just as the Torah begins with Parashat B’reishit, Mussar practice begins with the middah of anavah. All other middot are accessed through this core character trait. The middah of anavah is essential for living with integrity. When we think of humility, we may imagine someone who is the picture of modesty and meekness. However, in Mussar, humility is not defined as being so humble that you disappear; rather, it is about having all of your character traits in balance so that the inner light of the soul shines pure and clear as originally intended. As Mussar teacher Alan Morinis puts it, “Being humble doesn’t mean being nobody: it just means being no more of a somebody than you ought to be.”
…In our own lives, we hide our authentic selves from the truth of our lives. When we live out of balance, despite the fact that we may be falling apart on the inside or on the outside, we betray our lives. We take up either too much or too little space; either we take away space from others, or we abandon them when they need us. Our sacred connection to anything important—our families, our communities, our work—all suffer when we neglect to live life with anavah in balance. Celebrated with intention, Shabbat provides the time, space, and opportunity to reconnect to our core essence, reacquire a sense of proportion, and connect anew with the people and projects in our lives with both humility and presence. Anavah, approaching our lives with humility, means not taking up too much space in the Garden, not trying to fool others with some disguise of our true selves; but to honestly offer our truest selves to the people and work we encounter in our lives. Humility: Shabbat as a Return to Our Authentic Selves” by Rabbi Michelle Pearlman and Rabbi Sharon Mars in Mussar Torah Commentary, p.3, 6
**22 The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had.24 And Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and Jacob’s thigh was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”28 Then he said, “Your name shall no more be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”29 Then Jacob asked him, “Tell me, I pray, your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peni’el, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.”31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penu’el, limping because of his thigh.32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the sinew of the hip which is upon the hollow of the thigh, because he touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh on the sinew of the hip.