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Ki Tissa: How Can A Human "Cling" to God? February 23, 2019

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

 י וְעַתָּה הַנִּיחָה לִּי וְיִחַר-אַפִּי בָהֶם וַאֲכַלֵּם וְאֶעֱשֶׂה אוֹתְךָ לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל.
"Now, let Me be, that My anger may blaze forth against them and that I may destroy them, and make of you a great nation."[Ex. 32:10]
Consider: [Warning: This One is Very Hard!]
Rabbi Abahu said: If Scripture hadn't written it, we couldn't possibly say it; yet the verse teaches that Moses took hold of the Holy and Blessed One just as we might grab our friend by their garment. Moses said to God, "Master of the Universe, I will not let go of you until you pardon and forgive the people." [Babylonian Talmud: Berachot 32a]
 
I once asked my teacher, Rabbi Moshe Aharon (Miles Krassen), how to recognize my true nature. His answer, "Investigate what is always changing and what is never changing."
 
One key insight of our mindfulness practice is the recognition that all objective phenomena change over time. We watch the world closely, and it's changing.   We observe the breath, it's changing too. We notice sensations in the body, and they're fluid. We observe thoughts, images, perceptions, and mental phenomena as they arise and pass away. When observed carefully, even our sense of self is laid bare as a fluid aggregate of temporary sensations, feelings, perceptions, and thoughts that come into being for a time and then dissolve.  
 
The Hasidic simile that likens God's essence and God's manifestations to a body and its garments is instructive. Though we may change our clothing during the course of a day, the body that wears them remains relatively stable and changeless from one day to the next. That the Tikkunei Ha'zohar reminds us that "The garments that God wears in the morning God no longer wears in the evening; those that God wears one day God no longer wears the next day" suggests that any attempt to hold fast to God's garments is a futile effort. If we take hold of love or compassion or charity as an object or a feeling, it will change in time and slip through our hands. Such is the nature of impermanence. In order to hold fast to Divinity, then, we must look to a quality of love that transcends objects, remaining present and unchanging no matter the clothing it happens to be wearing in this moment.
 
The Tikkunei Ha'zohar suggests that to discover Divinity itself we must look for something (or no-thing more accurately) that transcends attributes, names, thoughts, forms, space, and time. That it describes keter as that which rests above the finite mind points us toward awareness itself as that formless Source - the inner witness that hovers in the backdrop of our experience without getting swept into it. Though our experience of world, body, and mind changes from moment to moment, awareness itself, our sense of pure being and knowing divorced from any object, remains steady and unchanging. Itself empty of all attributes, awareness is the medium in which all impermanent attributes are known. Indeed, never have we, nor could we ever experience anything without it. And, because awareness meets all objects indiscriminately, knowing whatever arises just as it is with absolute and total acceptance, awareness is experienced as a field of immutable love. [Touching an Expansive Mind: The Maggid’s Teachings; Rabbi Sam Feinsmith, Institute of Jewish Spirituality (online) Text Study, Ki Tisa (Based on the teachings of the Magid of Mezerich 1704-1772)]
 
Think About It:
1.       What is there in you that is always changing and what in you always stays the same? Which is the “real” you?
2.       What is the “heresy” that Rabbi Abahu identifies? Why does he consider it heretical? What is the Torah trying to teach with this verse?
3.       What is Awareness? Is it part of us, beyond us or is it the “stuff” that is part of everything? What makes it different from emotions?


Teaching:

 

Sermon given by Rabbi Randall Konigsburg at Beth Sholom B’nai Israel on Saturday, February 23, 2019.

Fri, April 10 2020 16 Nisan 5780