Friday, January 24, 2014

Mishpatim: The fullness of life

Parshat Mishpatim Ex. 23: 26. There will be no bereaved or barren woman in your land; I will fill the number of your days.

An unsatisfying and perplexing verse. Rashi adds "There will be no bereaved… woman: if you comply with My will" but this does not fully resolve the discomfort for it implies that whenever we see someone who is bereaved or empty, it is their fault for being out of sync with divine will. We know, however, that bereavement happens eventually for all of us who love someone, whether or not we comply with the divine. And barrenness also happens to most of us at some point in life - not the barrenness of not bearing a child, but the barrenness of not being able to nurture creativity, bring forth new projects, achieve our goals. These are universal experiences. So what could the verse be telling us? 

The promise of the verse, including Rashi's addition, is that careful attention to the reality of being, can allow us to live our lives more fully. We will experience moments of bereavement and barrenness, but in understanding that these are part of what fill our lives, we can transcend them. We can find, even in bereavement and loss, a fullness, an appreciation of life's richness. The bereavement, the barrenness, like the winter, will eventually yield to spring filled with new insights.

May we learn to see even the painful, empty experiences as moments that are part of living fully. May we skillfully allow those painful experiences to open us to receive new insights and to deepen our compassion for ourselves and for others.

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