From the Rabbi – Parashat Ki Tisa (Shabbat Para)

Full with Emptiness

Over the past few weeks, our Torah readings have amplified the problem of human longing. Just as we are wont to do, the People of Israel looked to the tangible to fill their emptiness, re-forming their personal treasures into a single golden mass. They danced around it, setting it as a solid center occupying their communal heart.

Some say the Golden Calf was an idol. Let’s just say it was too concrete, and in its tangible clunky-ness it fell flat as an embodiment of our prismatic imaginings of all that we need and all we desire to feel complete. Some say the Golden Calf was not an idol, rather, a throne, not dissimilar from other animal-form thrones for other Near Eastern deities of the time, and as such it was an invitation to YHWH to reside among the People. But even so, the gesture was coarse, as if we can capture what is ineffable and circumscribe the fluidity and fluctuation of our spiritual needs.

God said No: I can’t be held fast. I am, in fact, best described by longing. If you fill yourselves solid, you will leave no space for me. If you could know me, I would not be a mystery and we would not be engaged in this dynamic relationship of beloveds, me knocking on the door of your heart, and you cracking my heart open with your poignant human-ness.

So, our sacred myth offers a different embodiment of a home for God in our midst, a counter-offer to the idol/throne that was the Golden Calf, an embodiment of absence rather than presence, an empty space in which to engage in relationship rather than the fullness of space occupied by a golden form. God says: Build me a tabernacle, a shell of great beauty, with an emptiness at its center, and I will visit you there.

We have long since internalized the Tabernacle, knowing that our temples reside within. The message for us becomes: don’t fill up to feel ok. In great measure, the fulfillment of our spiritual lives is the yearning itself, the attenuated reach of our emptiness toward a greatness we intermittently see, or hear, or touch.

May we have the courage to create and embellish internal sanctuaries that frame absence, holding space for our imaginations to complete our unions with whatever it is we call God.

– Rabbi Hannah

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Purim 2017 – Wasn’t That a Party?

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From the Rabbi – Esther, Hidden One

Esther, Hidden One

Rabbi Hannah Dresner
Purim 5777

The name “Esther” means “hidden one,” and our Chassidic Masters interpreted the theme of concealment and revelation in the Purim Megillah as pointing to God’s own hidden-ness from us, and God’s desire to be sought out and revealed. They turn to the Talmud, where the rabbis ask: “Where is Esther revealed in the Torah?” She is revealed in Deuteronomy, as God says: ‘Ve-astir et panai.’ ‘And I will surely hide my face.'”

The Torah commentary, Ituray Torah, tells that Rabbi Dov Baer of Mezritch and his disciples were once out for an evening stroll. They came upon a little girl hiding in an alcove, weeping. “Why are you crying, little girl?” asked the rabbi. “I was playing hide-and-seek with my friends,” replied the little girl, “but they didn’t come looking for me!”

Tears sprang to the eyes of the Rebbe; he sighed, and turned to his students saying: “In the sorrow and the frustration of this little girl, I hear the weeping of the Shechinah: “ve-astir et panai” – “I have hidden myself, but no one comes looking for me…”

It is, indeed, our task to seek God out and invite God in – in all Her forms, releasing Her from all the places in which She is hidden in us, amongst us, and in the world.

If you were present at Or Shalom this past Tuesday evening for our multi-faith devotional service, United in Compassion, perhaps you felt, as I did, a revelation. Godliness filled us and our sanctuary as we opened to receive the energy of faith leaders and participants from a diversity of religious paths. What was revealed both filled us and unfolded us in hope. And with our offer of engagement, we honored a fuller awareness of God in her totality. We allowed God to be a bit more fully seen.

I like to think that just as we were a comfort to one another, we were a comfort to God – seeking Her, and finding her there, right in our midst, in all her prismatic diversity.

In the spirit of embracing a lonely God, a God who longs for us to find her in the game of hide-and-seek that life can sometimes be, let’s be aware, noticing, and appreciative. Let’s reveal God, waiting to be discovered in our neighbors, in our environment, and in our tasks.

Good Purim to all, and Shabbat Shalom!

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