Thank you Hod for being a reminding presence that everyday endurance also contains majesty. Reminding us of the glory inherent in our steps. If redemption is the horizon line, than our steps become the actual work that brings us there. Glory be to the everyday work of planting trees; teaching children; and tending gardens, relationships and public groups. Yes, we can gaze far across the world and through time seeing the many woes and joys of the world, knowing that much work is needed, and yet our work can only be here, where our steps touch the ground. Did you know that in one of HD Thoreau’s journals, I can’t remember which one, he comments on the ancient proverb from a wise Rabbi (Hillel) ‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me, If I am only for myself, what am I, if not now, when?” What does Thoreau add- “if not here, where”?
But wait, if redemption is just the horizon line, a semi-mythical someday soon, where wars will be banished, greed and corruption disappear, sustainability governs our politics and vine and fig trees are grown in every home, than where are our steps taking us? Besides, truth be told, I think my horizon line contains as much ‘staving of catastrophe’ as it does building a sustainable society. Remember Pete Seeger’s quote about a million small acts. In my mind that was the path to utopia… right? All our actions taken together? However when I go back and look, he begins with “I’m convinced that if there’s a human race in a hundred years…” Gulp! Utopia or Dystopia; Disney’s ‘happily ever after’ or Kafka’s ‘there plenty of hope, just not for us’.
And then, what about the redemption that just comes on it’s own schedule- we wait and wait, yearning without any correlation with our steps, coming in a graceful flash…or not coming at all. Oy voi voi, my head is spinning. Hod, take me away, back to the majesty of an enduring journey.
For me, even after all the head spinning challenges grocking redemption, I actually do believe in the glories of small redemptions, of milestones along the way- In civil rights legislation passed, acts of teshuvah changing the arc of lives, moments of grace filling us with a sense of deep healing. And its our majestic small steps of action and our thank you’s that we have to offer.
The Sfat Emet (~1900 Poland) talks of “small redemptive acts we do each day” which makes ‘bread from the earth’. This is sent upward, just as the ‘bread from heaven’, the manna of blessing, is sent downward. Here, the Sfat Emet is radically reminding us that the flow of blessing is both received and given by us, round and round again. A truly interdependent affair.
In another parsha, he goes on to say that redemption could have come at the very beginning and then, as Art Green comments, all souls would have come and gone in that same instant! The quickening swoosh of a fast creation was thankfully slowed by the hebrew word “Dai”, sustainability’s watchword (from dayenu fame), Enough! This enough not only allowed for the world as we know it to exist, but also for appreciation. Slow creation is what allowed the Holy One to look around at all that was created and say, ‘Tov M’od-Very Good!’
Art Green writes in his commentary (to this teaching which appears in parsha Vayachel) that we humans also need to learn this lesson, “human activity needs the same self limitation; knowing when to stop is part of the task of our human doing. We need to leave some room, after all, for the countless generations coming after us, who will also want to take a hand in building Gd’s dwelling-place on earth”. Pretty cool, eh? Not only are we not obligated to finish the task, but after all, other souls in future generations will want a chance to help out too! The glorious majesty of the limits of our everyday actions.
The last word goes to Yaakov Yitzchak, the Yehudi. He teaches in For the Sake of Heaven by Martin Buber, speaking in a whisper as audible as any voice, “The Shechinah is wandering the roads, in exile, dressed in black. Many turn away because they think they can do nothing, some turn away and grieve while waiting for a miracle…but our job is to offer a hand…after all, no one knows what may be accomplished until we try.” The glorious majesty of our everyday actions. Hod b’Malchut.
Reflection/Action: Glory be to the everyday work of planting trees, teaching children, tending gardens, relationships and public groups. What majestic everyday projects are you working on? I’ll read it later…my daughter’s calling.