Monday, September 20, 2010

After the Intensity, What? God in the Doldrums

For Jews, the Days of Awe have ended.  For Moslems, Ramadan has ended.  For Christians, we are in the long flat time between Easter and Christmas.  When our rituals and practices of prayer and fasting focus our hearts and minds on drawing near to God, it may be easier for us to remember God and “know before Whom we stand.”  But what about when those strong winds of community and tradition abate and we are left in the daily round of life.  We still have our weekly practices of services to blow us forward. We still have our daily practices of prayer and blessing. They keep gently moving us  forward.  And yet, we feel—after the freshening winds of that intense concentration on God—the dull and deadening affect of ordinary life.  We get caught up in the distractions and demands around us and—it seems--we stop moving toward the One. 

How to recapture that intensity of communion and purpose in our daily lives of “ordinary” time?  The early Hasids offer help.  Try to keep before you at all times the unity of the One, which means God is present everywhere and there is nowhere where God is not.  One way to do this is to repeat to yourself through the day the words of the prophet Isaiah, ”The whole earth is filled with God’s glory” (6:3).
As the Baal Shem Tov teaches:
We say, “Here O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4).
     When we say that “the Lord is One,” we mean that nothing other than God exists in all the universe.  It is thus written, “The Whole earth is filled with God’s glory” (Isaiah 6:3).
     The main idea here is that a person should consider himself like absolutely nothing.  He should realize that he has no essence other than his divine soul, and that this is a “portion of God from on high.”  Therefore, nothing exists in the world except the absolute Unity which is God.
     The main idea of this unity is that “the whole earth is filled with His glory.”  There is therefore absolutely nothing that is devoid of God’s essence.  (The Light Beyond, ed. Aryeh Kaplan, p. 37).
And also:
God is present in every movement.  It is impossible to make any move or speak any word without God’s power.  This is the meaning of the verse,”The whole earth is filled with God’s glory” (Is. 6:3). Kether Shem Tov 273 (The Light Beyond, ed. Aryeh Kaplan, p. 42).
And this:
     It is written, “The whole earth is filled with God’s glory” (Is. 6:3). This means that even the physical world is one of God’s garments.  The verse therefore says that “the whole earth is felled with God’s glory”—even the physical.  “Glory” alludes to a garment.  Likutim Yekarim 17c. (The Light Beyond, ed. Aryeh Kaplan, p. 43).
What would our days be like, our lives be like,  if at every moment, in every circumstance, in every situation, with every movement we made and every person and creature and place we encountered—on the bus, stuck in traffic, arguing with a friend, holding our babies, sweating after a run, cooking dinner, watching clouds drift by—we said to ourselves, “The whole earth is filled with God’s glory”  and saw through these the garments of the One? 
Try it for a day.

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