ki avi v’imi azavuni

When traveling, you get lots of opportunities to reflect.  You don’t always do it, but the opportunities are there.  I don’t know why I’m talking about you; it’s about me, isn’t it?

This is one of the opportunities that I mean; reflections of language, how it patterns us.  And I do mean us.  I’m reading Essential Essays on Judaism by Eliezer Berkovits these days; it’s not that it’s hard reading, but that I am not spending concentrated amounts of time reading it.  And when I go back to it, I have to re-read sections, since I have to know where I came from to know where I’m going.

I’ll get back to that, hopefully, soon.

He talks about patterning of behavior necessary for ethical action.  It is not reflective but reflexive; like being ready for battle.  You can’t go into battle without knowing your moves.  And those people who complain about spiritual emptiness of most religious behavior don’t get that; it’s not the highs that you can count on but the lows.  And then what you do with them is up to you.

I’ll quote one section that I really like here:

The spirit is never holy by itself; there are no holy ideals or holy intentions.  Holiness is only possible when the danger of profanity is close at hand. Only in the realm of defilement may the act of sanctification be performed.  The encounter between the spirit and the “other” is the origin of holiness. Holiness may evolve only when the spirit is in contact with its opposite.  When the “ideal” begins to penetrate the kingdom of the “material”, there is the beginning of sanctification.  Where natural needs and urges become directed towards goals which may be acknowledged in the presence of God, and where spiritual aspirations become effective through their “communion” with the material sources of vitality, there alone may holiness be found.  Only life is capable of holiness.  Any ascetic rejection of the world of the senses excludes the possibility of sanctification.  It is not the will that is holy, but the deed, because in it the spiritual and the material unite.  And it is through the holy deed alone that body and soul may be sanctified.[1]

This is the background of my words here today, I hope.  Here, just a few weeks before Rosh HaShanah, I am trying to move myself towards a sense of holiness of time, but I see that I really can do that by being here in the moment.  But the moments are fleeting.  As I write this, I am leaving son #2 and family, as they prepare to leave us to go back to the Holy Land.  We have been visiting my DIL’s family for a bit after having a few days of real vacation to ourselves.  Of course we need the opposite order, but that’s just not possible this time around.  So I am leaving them as they leave us.

Which brings me back to my title.

In the kapital Tehillim that we say during the month of Elull, we say that “since my father and mother have left me, G-d will gather me in”.  Or it could be asking G-d to gather us in.  At the bottom level, it is a statement of existentialism, but not in the ways the existentialist read it.  We are never alone, as much as our family changes and our circumstances change.  We have to know and recognize that G-d is with us.  And this is not something that we can know on an every day basis; it is that coming together of the statement about “Where natural needs and urges become directed towards goals which may be acknowledged in the presence of God, and where spiritual aspirations become effective through their “communion” with the material sources of vitality, there alone may holiness be found.”

Practice practice practice.

Location location location.


[1] p. 36, Essential Essays on Judaism, Eliezer Berkovitz, edited by David Hazony, Shalem Press, Jerusalem, 2002

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