Retreats, and staying home
One God, Many Names

The imperative to mend

Sometimes the world just makes me sad. The Israelis and the Palestinians continue to kill each other. Diaspora Jews continue to argue so stridently about Israeli policy that I fear we will never understand each other, on this issue or any other. People are killing each other right now, around the world, for reasons I can't imagine or understand. (And probably in more places than you realize.) Governor Mitt Romney wants to take action to prevent gay marriages from happening in Massachusetts; President Bush wants to amend the federal Constitution for the same reason; and I find that so incomprehensible that I can't imagine how to begin to argue with it.

Kabbalist Isaac Luria originated the notion of tzimtzum, what one college professor of mine jokingly termed the "bagelization" of God. (Bear with me; this relates.) Before creation, this theory goes, God was complete and infinite. In order to make room for creation, God had to withdraw God's-self. God pulled back and in the space which was not-God, there creation is. (Maybe that's why we're fundamentally estranged from our Source: God had to pull back to make room for us. Where we are, God isn't. Bleak, eh?)

Luria's teaching continues: creation consisted of holy emanations streaming into the physical realm. God's emanations, though, were too strong to be contained, and creation shattered. The world that we know, therefore, is always already broken. It consists of shells, husks, in which holy sparks once resided. It is our job to find those holy sparks and lift them back up to God, to reunite them with their Source, and in so doing make whole the broken world. (This is the original context of the phrase tikkun olam, healing the world.)

When wholeness seems impossible, I try to tell myself that it is good to open myself to what is broken. That we are exiled sparks of God -- and that sorrow is good if it impels us to reach God-wards.

Breath of Life, help me to approach the broken world with compassion, to accord full humanity even to those whose beliefs and actions I find most reprehensible. To know that every disagreement is an opportunity for growth, and that every sorrow is an opportunity for teshuvah, re/turning to You; that only despair is unforgiveable, because it removes the hope of change. Blessed are You, Source of all Being, who has given us a broken world and the imperative to mend it.