“monuments of stone are destined to disappear; days of spirit never disappear”
how strongly settled a foundation does our restraint need? that is what abraham joshua heschel is pointing at. what we might want to keep in mind is that pharaoh built monuments of stone…..
the stone that pharaoh built ‘wonder of the world’ high, or at least what remains after looting and repurposing over the ages, remains piled. but to what is it monument? the afterlife cult of the ancient egyptians is long gone, replaced, even in the heartland, by Islam….even the language of the pharaohs is but a historical note (very ‘picturesque’ though) in the log of bygone civilizations. the great pyramids are monuments to the piling up of stone, of engineering that still astounds us….which sort of makes them monuments to the underlings and slaves who built them….which sort of makes them monuments of, well, the Israelites.
didn’t see that coming, did you pharaoh? heschel’s larger point for yesod in gevurah is that we should be mindful to make our day today of spirit and not of heaped up stone. even when the stonyheap still stands, its significance does not. pharaoh, and the way of the pharaoh, is no more living today than the frogs, locust, lice and wild beasts of the plagues. but the frogs, locusts, lice and wild beasts are still spoken of in families over dinner…monument to a Torah that remains the living presence of G’d and a People that ol’ pharaoh tried to dismiss….or retain, i guess, but to no lasting effect. petrifaction of the spirit is death to the spirit.
heschel also points up how monuments in time, even just a day at a time, last. they accumulate, the like the days of the sefirah, adding up over time. a growing presence in the very medium that persistence is measured in.
the entirety of the just and righteous way is in the Torah, yet it is recorded on flexible, perishable parchment. the letters chip and fade…..but then need regular repair maintaining the connection to the spirit in real time. when the parchment finally gives out, a new one is made. refinishing the pyramids is unthinkable. rewriting the Torah is a mitzvah for each of us to aspire to do or take part in. and it is actually done by a single hand, in daily repurification, with the care and attention that a living mind and heart brings.
think of it this way: Torah scrolls don’t draw pigeons…..stone monuments…well, you get the picture.
yesod is the firmness of a settling of foundation; a suitable basis for spiritual action. but it should not be ramrod rigid. rather, as the proverbial reed, it should demonstrate its integrity by bending in the winds of time and change. the justice of gevurah should be established in the same manner, exhibiting high tensile strength. gevurah needs stretching, and bending, and drawing out to prove its mettle for application in human society, and through human spirit.
let’s each make a Torah for ourselves, establishing it upon a base of experience, knowledge, and practice…limber, supple, adaptable…..built solidly of these renewable resources. THAT monument is sustainable to the end of time; nothing can tear it asunder.
mussar for yesod she b’gevurah
yesod-gevurah with another….bein adam l’chaveiro a pillar of judaism is family life and the values cultivated within. these days synchronous family activities seem a bit lost: one child has soccer practice, another cheerleading. it’s mama’s night out….dad’s with the brotherhood. try sitting down all together for a meal. count sefirat haYom together today. re-erect that pillar of spirit in time.
yesod-gevurah with yourself….bein adam l’atzmo examine your mindset for correcting things that people do today. do you do it with love, or with anger? if with even a little irritation, ask yourself why something is so set in you, so set in your ways, that it matters in a way that leads to anger. is that any way to build relationships?
kabbalah for yesod she b’gevurah
in assiyah….the world of doing/completion we sing about the 3 things on which the world stands. when we sing about it, we are re-establishing the yesod (foundation) of these 3 for the jewish way of life: “al haTorah, al haAvodah, v’al gemilut chasadim”…Torah, Spirit Work (ie, prayer , service, devotion), and Acts of Loving-Kindness. these are foundings and not merely foundations. the work of building on them is ongoing. consider how you support these foundings on which the world stands.
in yetzirah….the world of feeling/formation in what are you spiritually grounded? in learning? in practice? or merely in nostalgia? in ethnic cuisine? or maybe your judaism is grounded in fear? (ch’v) contemplate whether your grounding is righteous….is secure enough to build on. if not, what will you do to change it?
in b’riyah….the world of thought/creation each generation’s understanding of G’d, of practice, of prayer is built on the teachings of generations that came before and conditioned on contemporaneous experience. examine your own understandings. from which generation do your dominant foundational understandings spring? we always say that times change and judaism changes apace. meditate on where your understandings came from and where they have gone. is it enough?
in atzilut….the world of nearness to G’d/intuition again with the Heschel….”prayer is our attachment to the utmost.” prayerfully contemplate your connections….is the utmost amongst them now? and if not now, when?
kinyan 13 of 48 ways to acquire Torah
Mishnah….Repetition in Learning and Teaching. a good teacher, a true chacham/rabbi, will have rehearsed much of Talmud and Zohar in addition to Chumash. today, though, we seem to have rabbis who do not even seem to have completed a single reading (let alone careful study!) of any of the Holy Texts. why is this ok? espedially since the rule of rehearsal holds for the rest of us as well–the ideal of mishnah for all is in the Shema:
“…teach them repeatedly to your children, speaking of them when you sit at home and when you travel on the way, when you lie down and when you rise….” (Deuteronomy 6…)