Monthly Message: August 28, 2020
The Torah tells the story of the Jewish people as we move from the Garden of Eden to the edge of the Holy Land. But it is also tells the personal story of each and every Jew. In each generation we all journey from Eden to Israel, from paradise, through Egypt and desert, to struggle with God and to seek God’s path. And each year we begin anew, ever striving, ever searching for a higher level of spiritual awareness.
Where Have You Been?
When Adam – the first human being, and a symbol of each and every member of the human family – first tastes of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, he becomes aware, and with his awareness, he feels remorse, guilt and hides. God asks: “Ayekhah, where are you?” Does God, the all knowing and all powerful really not know where his creation is? Could we possibly be meant to read this question literally? Instead, we must hear this question as if it being asked of us today. Where are YOU? If the Torah is the story of our own personal journey, then like every journey, this one must begin by asking where our journey begins. To come closer to our destination, we must first know where we have been. And so on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we begin with a cheshbon hanefesh – an accounting of our spirit. We reckon our thoughts, speech, and deeds in the past year in order to know our point of departure, and have a means of measuring our progress.
Where Do You Stand?
In the midst of the vast desert between Egyptian servitude and Holy Land redemption, God asks us to stand and witness at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Why does God speak from a mountain? It is the permanence and presence of the imposing silhouette that shouts out to us, even louder than the commandments, “Where do you stand?” On any journey, we must regularly pause and take stock of what we have been able to accomplish and what still lies ahead. At these milestones, we are balanced between the challenges of our past and the hope of the future. This is the land of the living, the eternal Now, the Present moment in which all of life really takes place. Do you know who you are? Right here and right now? Are you present at Sinai?
Where Are You Going?
Ironically, the story of the Torah ends (or begins again) with the word Yisrael – calling each of us to recognize our destiny, our wrestling with God and with our own journey. As he looks across the Jordan River from the mountain top of Nevo, Moses, like us, can glimpse the future, but he can never actually see it. We too stand at the edge of a great river of time that separates us from the land of tomorrow, a land that is always ahead, always beyond the map of our adventure. We are called to ask, where are we going? What is our purpose? What is our motivation? Do we know ourselves and our destiny better at the end of the High Holy Day journey than we did at the beginning, when God – speaking as a still, small voice within – first asked us Where have you been, where do you stand, and where are you going? Ayekhah?
I am here, O Blessed One.