Sunday, May 30, 2010
Psalm for Sunday: Psalm 24, Vs. 5
ישא ברכה מאת יהוה וצדקה מאלהי ישעו
They shall lift up blessing from the Eternal and righteousness from the God of their salvation.
Last week's commentary concluded with: "By being mindful we can avoid these traps [when the ego tries to convince us that self-centered action is really for the good of the One] and do that which lifts up our soul to holiness and connects the soul to its source. When we act this way, then we will certainly find ourselves standing on holy ground on "God's holy mountain". And that is where we are all meant to be."
When any of is able to act in a way that affirms our connection with all creation through the One of the universe then we are standing on 'God's holy mountain.'
From our place on the mountain we can see the world and the glory it contains. We are able to see the unity that connects all within God. In every moment when we are mindful and recognize this, then we lift up a blessing from the Divine.
For though we may be standing on the mountain, that does mean we are any closer to God. For God is not in the heavens or on the mountaintop. And the mountaintop of which the psalmist speaks is not a physical location. The mountain of God is on a spiritual plane and represents being with God and with all in the moment. It means letting down our guard, breaking down the walls we build around us and allowing ourselves to connect with others and with our universe. God dwells in all places where we let God in, as the hassidic rebbe Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev taught. When we open our heart and soul in this way, then we stand on God's mountain and let God in.
This is what connects us with the rest of the universe and allows us to raise up God's blessing. We raise this blessing up not from some physical place, but from deep within ourselves. It rises from our soul, the spark of the Divine within, it infuses our entire being and then it radiates out to the world. Thus the cycle of interconnectedness at the heart of Oneness continues.
When we lift up the Divine blessing from deep within our souls what is it that we receive as our gift from the Source of all blessing? What we receive is tzedakah צדקה. Often translated as 'charity', this word actually means righteousness. But this is not self-righteousness or "holier than thou" righteousness. This is righteousness that is comprised of doing justice and correct action. Yet, how do we know when something is truly just and correct? How do we know it's not just another trick of the ego leading us to believe the opposite of what is true?
For something to be truly righteous, just and correct it must, as the verse implies, come from אלהי ישעו the God of our salvation. Mordecai Kaplan, founder of Reconstructionism, saw salvation as a striving for personal and societal perfection. In the Hebrew Bible the word for righteousness ישוע yeshua implies an expansiveness of the soul, rather than a narrowness or constricted nature implied by tzarot צרות, the word for troubles, which is often viewed as its antithesis.
Does that mean that, if we experience a perfected life free from trouble, strife and constrictedness then we can be sure we have achieved salvation? Of course not! However, if the sense of blessing rising up within from our souls causes us to act in a way that we alleviate some degree of suffering in our world and does not just address our own individual suffering or individual desires, then it can be seen as a blessing that has come to us from the God of our Salvation. Doing this must be our goal in every moment.
There are some moments when we achieve the goal and many others when we do not. For none of us is immune to the tricks of the ego. And none of us is always totally selfless and altruistic. So we just keep trying our best in each moment to be mindful so that we may find ourselves standing on God's holy mountain, receiving the blessing from of our soul and then acting to make the world a better place. It's not a simple task, but it's one we must try our best to achieve in every moment - or as often as possible.
Posted by Rabbi Steven Nathan at 6:49 PM
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