Return to Thunder


It was Naso, the longest parashah in the Torah, always read on the Shabbat before Shavuot, before the great wedding celebrating the enduring wisdom given to us because we had prepared in one version and because we did not in another.

Was it a complete gift this wisdom or did we turn ourselves inside out and twisted ourselves into a posture of acceptance some crazy yoga that we submitted to methodically and daily in order to gain the gift: here is your wisdom, nicely packaged it’s now in book form first it came as thunder and lightning but some time into the future after you are done with the telling you will begin the writing then it will be a book then it will return to lightning in digital form and you will return to telling because the words are on the wind in the rain maybe once in a while you’ll project them on a wall or write them in a journal to remind you that the word has shape and also to remind you that the word does not have shape it has sound. The return to thunder.

What a week. Great ascent tempered by a plummet back to reality, ta-da ta-da little sleep and much wrestle with the dreaded mind-slip and the question mark associated with the mysterium: what to do, and the great vulnerability of being a human being alive but fearful of the drift downward. Fear full. Reminder: drift Up.

Then the blessing in its three parts from the book of Numbers, Naso, and great stories from several years ago from this same Shabbos. The way Rashi reads the blessing: material. Blessed will you be with possessions, this from the Medrash.

The way the Mesillat Yesharim reads it: everything is a test. You get good: a test. You get bad: a test. Everything is a test. Mesillat Yesharim, also known as R. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, eighteenth century, his story and his writings speak to me and I think I ran into him at the house of study that bears his family name in Venice. He is another who had a maggid that spoke to him – through him invoking the teachings that came from Elijah the prophet, the poor guy was hounded out of Venice to Amsterdam and eventually to Aco where he died in a plague.

From the Sefas Emes the sense of shleimut, wholeness, to be blessed with shalom is to be blessed with wholeness, some sort of inner point of blessing that opens from the one the individual the instance to the many the All the Universal. The Sefas Emes calls this the inner point of truth. The inner point of truth: When you have that you have everything. Peace is a vessel. It contains blessing.

In the Sefas Emes version, the three fold blessing is given in the singular opening onto the plural, one and many, the individual as it opens onto the universal the universal always sheleimut/shalom/l’seim lekha shalom — to bring the blessing from the individual instance to the universal application, the conduit from the one to the many – to break through your skin and live in G*d.

The inner point of truth this is shleimut/shalom the inner is experienced as the universal. Wherever G*d dwells there is blessing, wherever there is blessing there is shalom. I am you and you are me and we are all together.

I love the partial the broken individual incomplete, the fragment the wounded. I love the separate because it integrates and even if not it is whole. I am stunned by this teaching each time I revisit it.

This year Shabbat Naso always the thought of the blessing as we enter the last leg of transformative-gift getting that is the durable wisdom soon soon and sitting in the minyan that night a guy from Thursday night meeting fresh off of heroin and tonight he is fresh on I can generally tell from looking at him. Later that night quietly he lets me know: I used today. I gotta stay close to this, he says. I want this so bad.

You are here with nothing I am thinking Rashi – but your dearest possession right now is your sobriety. Get clean and that one possession will open onto all other blessings, without that blessing – nothing. He knows this. Yeah yeah he says. We are talking in code a language so abbreviated only Rashi and his band of deconstructivists would understand. They spoke in grunts and hand signs, shakes of the head and so do we, they left only a one or two phrase resting place in language for the future.

It’s a test man, all of it, you will be tested daily. Today a test, tomorrow a test, each day a deadly quiz and if you fail it today you can make it tomorrow. One day at a time. Luzzatto. Go home to your Mom’s house tonight and take tomorrow fresh. Do-over, every day new. That’s not a blessing?

With the Sefas Emes we are entirely at home stoned or sober: the trip is internal, find your peace the inner point of truth within don’t forget the generosity of this: each part is a whole, each instance opens onto the All. Only Everything is everything. Find your peace, from the Sefas Emes, the inner point of truth: shalom, shleimut. Humble and opening Up.

Every day new. Every year another chapter on the story as it winds Up.

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