If we bring an understanding of God in exile with us to the history explored this week — hundreds of years of some people enjoying equilibrium unavailable to others — a new question emerges: What is the light of foundation demanding of us in regard to harmony?
For many Jews, each week of this 49-stage journey is associated with one of seven divine attributes, and each day of the week is associated with one of the seven, so that, on we explore 49 different combinations of these attributes. This, said Rabbi Zalman Shachter-Shalomi, is a way of counting “all the lights and attributes needed to leave [Mitzrayim] behind.” In that spirit, earlier this week I suggested that the stage associated with judgment in harmony was asking us to consider where balance might need tipping.
Perhaps judgment was pushing its way into our sense of beauty and harmony in order to demand: Does the balance some of us enjoy come at the expense of others? If this pandemic has shown us what is out of whack, can we foster a more inclusive balance? For those whose work focuses on climate justice, is the sense of judgment tipping some balances, around racial divides?
In Reb Zalman’s language, bringing the light of judgment to the divine attribute of harmony was asking us to consider what false sense of balance we need to shed in order to leave the Narrow Place behind.
I raised the topic of Pharaoh telling the people to abandon baby boys at the start of the Exodus story and how, in the words of scholar Adele Berlin, “the predictable — but not immediate — result would be the [child’s] death.” And I asked that we consider how this has been playing out in predictable if not immediate results of racial divides in this country.
Now we are at the stage of the journey that brings the light of foundation into harmony. The topic I had previously planned for this stage focuses on the concept of God in exile with us, citing as an example a prayer for the fall harvest holiday that begs God: “Rescue Yourself and Us.” If we bring this understanding, of God in exile with us, to the history explored this week — hundreds of years of some people enjoying equilibrium unavailable to others — a new question emerges: What is the light of foundation demanding of us in regard to harmony?
Most of us experience some sense of safety or balance — on the basis of gender or sexuality or economic position or ability or skin color — that is not available to others among us. But, if we consider God entering exile with us, has God surrendered privileges that the People cannot share? If the divine follows us into whatever exile we are experiencing, then something similar is required of us, if we are to make any progress on joint liberation. We cannot surrender privilege. But we can take steps to remove any sense that we are somehow entitled to dwell in harmony and balance or safety when others cannot. If God could join us in exile, we can work to dismantle White Supremacy and other protections that can never be equally shared.
Earlier, I suggested the light of judgment was, in a sense, tipping us to consider the sources of our sense of balance. Now, I think the light of foundation is coming to remind us that we, all of us, including God, are in need of rescue, rescue that only works if we all experience it together.
written version —
Rescue Me! (#20)