Monday, January 31, 2011
Psalm for Monday. Psalm 48, verse 14
שיתו לבכם לחילה פסגו ארמנותיה למען תספרו לדור אחרון׃
Note well her fortified walls; pass through her palaces that you may tell of them to the next generation.
In my commentary of verse 13, I discussed how we build walls as boundaries around heart and soul . However, as I stated, we need to make these boundaries the right strength so that they protect us, but also allow others in. This is all part of maintaining a balance and preventing the ego from taking control and alienating us.
In verse 14, we are at first commanded, literally, to “place in our hearts” the city’s fortified walls. An expression meaning to ‘note well’ or ‘pay attention,’ it reminds us that we can’t simply ignore the fortified walls that we have built around our own holy city and around our heart. For if we do not acknowledge the existence of the walls, then that will allow the ego to continue building them unchecked. This will eventually lead to a state when we are walled off completely from the world around us and from the Divine.
Part of acknowledging the walls is also acknowledging what it is they are “protecting.” We do this by passing through the glorious palaces that comprise our spiritual home. These palaces are filled with beauty. They are the places where we feel and experience God’s presence and our oneness with the Divine. And yet, these palaces are surrounded by the fortified walls.
So again, we find an image that calls to us for balance and equanimity. The walls, the boundaries, are not inherently “bad.” They are necessary in life. But we must always remember that there is a beautiful palace, a holy place, that they are surrounding. Therefore, the walls must not be impenetrable. We must be able to scale the ramparts without too much effort. In short, we must face the difficulties of life, face the ego head on and find balance. For we know that a balanced path is the one that leads us to the palace that is the soul.
We do this not only for ourselves, but also for the next generation. So often we teach our children that life is either simple or difficult in the extreme. If our children believe that life is simple and all beauty, then they are at a loss when they experience the inevitable and necessary difficulty and pain of living. However, if we teach them that life is only pain and difficulty, then they spend their lives fortifying their walls while being totally oblivious to the beauty of the palace on the other side.
Our balance, our equanimity, our acknowledgment of both the pain and beauty of existence is what we must pass on to the next generation. Finding this balance four ourselves is difficult enough. Passing it on to the next generation sometimes seems like an insurmountable task.
However, if we pay attention to the beauty of existence, the palace of the soul that is within us all, then it becomes just a little bit easier to do the difficult work necessary for us and for those who are to come to experience life in all of its complexity.
Posted by Rabbi Steven Nathan at 10:01 PM
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