It's been a little while since I've posted any of the material I'm studying in school, so I thought I'd share some pearls from a text I've enjoyed reading this week. In the class I'm taking on the Hasidic sacred year, we've been studying a gorgeous text from the Chernobyler rebbe on finding one's voice. (The Chernobyler is also known as the Me'or Eynayim -- I've posted about his work a number of times before.) Reb Menachem Nahum Twersky of Chernobyl has some beautiful things to say about how unifying our thoughts and our speech is a precursor to the coming of messianic time.
It is incumbent on each of us, he says, to raise up the spark of moshiach which can be found in her own soul. (Okay, he said "his," but I'm a her, so I'm switching the pronoun.) Each of us must identify the particle of messianic consciousness which exists in her soul alone, and raise up that spark. This is how we make tikkun, repair. (In the original text, the obligation to raise up these sparks is clearly placed on the shoulders of the people Israel. In a contemporary pluralistic reading, I think one can expand the text to refer to the obligation shared by all humanity to transform creation.)
We do the work of uplifting our own sparks by ensuring that our speech matches our thoughts, especially when it comes to prayer. Prayer without intention is like a body without a soul, but when we pray with intention, then we're doing holy work; and when we do it together with one another, then the letters of our speech combine into a cosmic utterance of transformation.
I understand him to be saying that each of us needs to speak the truths that she is uniquely placed to speak, to pray the prayers of her own heart. When each of us wholly inhabits her own context, speaking the words which are hers to speak with all of her heart and soul, then together we collaborate on speaking transformation into being.
The Chernobyler puns between moshiach (messiah, messianic consciousness) and me'siach ("in/through conversation"), suggesting that we bring about the transformation of messianic consciousness when we speak with one another in mindful ways. Each of us holds a distinctive spark of transformation which could lead to the coming of the messianic era, but we can't deploy them alone. Bringing moshiach is a collective enterprise. It's dialogic, it's distributed processing, it's a collaborative joint project. Moshiach comes me'siach, through conversation: through the encounter where intention and speech are unified and I and Thou truly meet.
I love how this text places responsibility for repairing the world into all of our hands. In order to bring about transformation together, we each have to do our own work of repair. And I especially love the importance this text places on words. Words without intention are an empty shell, but words spoken (or perhaps also written?) with intention have the capacity to change the world! As a writer, as a teacher of writing, as a feminist, as someone involved with all sorts of creative exegetical communities, I love this idea that in order to transform creation each of us needs to find her voice.