May 22, 2015 admin

The world in miniature

Shavuot is the festival of revelation, the commemoration of when God spoke at Sinai. To the mystics, God’s speech is never solely in the past; God speaks now and always, and to us. What this signifies is a deeply personal matter; it will be different for each of us, and vary as we change through the course of our lives. I have tried to set down in a short credo what it currently means, or what I would like it to mean, to me.
Ahavat- and Yirat- Shamayim, love and awe before Heaven, are shorthand for a lived and experienced reverence for life, not only as it is encountered in its particularity, in tree, bird, deer, people, but as it is inhaled in its essential vitality, as a vibrant awareness of the invisible oneness which fills all being, the ‘one motion and one spirit…that rolls through all things.’ [1]
Such awareness opens the heart to wonder and respect for the essence of life, to that to which the word ‘God’ serves as pointer, to what the kabbalists and mystics called Ein Sof, the unending and inexhaustible source of existence and the wellspring of being and beauty. Prayer is the attempt to spend time undistracted in the presence of this reality, to let it cleanse the mind, fill the heart, reinvigorate the spirit, motivate our conscience and guide our actions.
The very awareness of such a relationship with life is in itself a form of responsibility. How can one know, feel kinship, but then not care? Each person ‘has an infinite sphere of responsibility before the infinite’ [3] This is expressed not only in bonds of heart and soul, but in action, classically in mitzvot, doing what we experience ourselves as commanded to do.
The goal of this action is always Tikkun, reparation, motivated by the longing for the world to be as we believe God wants it, or dreams it. It is our response to what Hans Jonas called ‘the mutely insistent appeal of [God’s] unfulfilled goal’. [4]
Tikkun calls us to dedicate ourselves in two mutually necessary and inter-dependent ways.
On the one hand we are required to act. The possibilities are endless. The Mishnah’s remarkable statement that everybody needs to be able to say ‘for my sake the world was created,’ can be taken to mean that there are aspects of life and need which appeal to us especially because of our unique gifts, sensitivities, and vulnerabilities, calling on us to work, advocate, and seek healing for them. [5]
This commitment to care is always multiple. Rooted in the mutuality of community and the commonality of history, we are particularly responsible to our people Israel. We are at the same time answerable before all human life, since we share the equal privilege of being created in the image of God. No one may stand idly by the suffering of another: ‘To follow the Most High is to know that nothing is of greater importance than the approach made towards one’s neighbour, the concern with the fate of “the widow and the orphan, the stranger and the poor.”’ [6] We are accountable too before creation itself, the animals, birds, trees and plants entrusted to our safeguarding, as the rabbis enjoined: ‘Do not destroy my world [says God] for there is no-one after you who can put it right’. [7]
On the other hand, we are required to sensitise our mind and spirit, to listen and be still, so that we intuit and take inspiration from the speech which is latent in all things, powerful and inaudible at once, the hidden voice of God:
     Behold the heavens and their hosts proclaim the awe of you,
     without their voice being heard at all.    [8]
In these ways Tikkun Olam is both what we endeavour to do for one another and for the world, and an inner work of Teshuvah, return to and rediscovery of the person we could be and seek to be, a tikkun or reparation of the olam katan, the world in miniature, which each of us constitutes in our own life and spirit.

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