Friday, November 29, 2013

Mikeitz- Mercy Arising

Parshat Mikeitz - Gen 43: 29-30: " And he lifted his eyes and saw Benjamin, his brother, the son of his mother, and he said, "Is this your little brother, whom you told me about?" And he said, "May God favor you, my son. And Joseph hastened, for his mercy was stirred toward his brother, and he wanted to weep; so he went into the room and wept there."

How often do we, like Joseph, experience conflicting feelings that we hold inside? Joseph felt anger toward the brothers who had left him to die in the pit, loving-kindness toward Benjamin, and longing for his father. Initially, Joseph acted out of anger - tricking his older brothers and forcing them to leave Benjamin. Eventually, Joseph was able to move beyond his anger and forgive.

May we be blessed to allow ourselves to become aware of the full range of our emotions, from anger to compassion. May we, like Joseph, attain enough wisdom to allow lovingkindness to prevail.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Vayishlach: Seeking the name of mystery

Parshat Vayishlach
Gen 32:25 - 31 
25And Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until the break 
of dawn.

26When he saw that he could not prevail against him, he touched the 
socket of his hip, and the socket of Jacob's hip became dislocated as
he wrestled with him.

27And he (the angel) said, "Let me go, for dawn is breaking," but he 
(Jacob) said, "I will not let you go unless you have blessed me."

28So he said to him, "What is your name?" and he said, "Jacob."

29And he said, "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel,
because you have commanding power with [an angel of] God and with men,
and you have prevailed."

30And Jacob asked and said, "Now tell me your name," and he said,
"Why is it that you ask for my name?" And he blessed him there.

31And Jacob named the place Peniel, for [he said,]
"I saw an angel face to face, and my soul was saved."

When Jacob asks the angel's name, the angel replies with a question. Apparently, Jacob never learns the name of the angel, even though he saw the angel face to face and received the angel's blessing. This is the reverse of Moses' encounter with God when Moses is in the cleft of the mountain. At that time, God told Moses that Moses can not see God's face, but that God will proclaim God's name before him.

In each of these encounters, the person is seeking to know the divine more deeply, yet the divine holds back from being completely known. The angel holds back telling his name. God holds back showing God's face. This reminds us that the closest encounter with the divine necessarily includes an element of mystery and of incompleteness. We are a finite vessel into which the infinite is poured, and we cannot contain the entirety of the flow. 

But although we can never know the divine completely, we can appreciate the desire that impels us to know the divine just a little more.

May we be blessed to have our unanswered questions and our unanswered desires fuel our search for closeness to and alignment with the divine.