No matter how hard I try to reframe it, it is undeniable that there exists a strain of Jewish theology that is deeply hierarchical. In which The Holy Blessed One dwells above us, amplified by the image of God sitting in judgement of us on Rosh Hashanah. And we, God's people, long to feel a closeness to the Divine.
But even for those who believe in this vertical metaphor, subvert it during the month of Elul. In Elul it is said that "The King is in the field" (Song of Songs 6:3). Now I ask you for a moment to set aside your ambivalence about a Divine throne of glory and God as King, those are topics for a later date - namely Rosh Hashanah.
For the mystics, to say that the King is in the field, is to say that during this transitional month, God has gotten off of the high horse and is meeting us where we are at. In this time when we are called by the shofar to reflect on our shortcomings and missed connections, The Holy One is holding our hand in a field of wild flowers. I picture lush green rolling hills as glorious as Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. And The Holy One is running towards me, arms wide open, eager to listen, beaming with love.
In the words of Rumi,
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.
On this long weekend, I invite you to carve out some time for the Hasidic practice of Hitbodedut - literally, being actively with yourself. Find a place, a field, a beach, a tree in Malcolm X Park, and speak stream of consciousness as if The Holy One is listening, right there, in ear's shot. 'Cuz just maybe she is.
What would you tell The Holy One if you had her undivided attention?
Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Ari Lev
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Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari brings Torat Hayyim, a living tradition, to Kol Tzedek through thoughts about prayer, justice, and community.