Birth, Death, Eternal Flame

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Dear Friends,
 
I was born yesterday, according to the solar calendar; by the calendar of the Hebrews, I was born on the full moon of Cheshvan/Scorpio.  Perhaps in alignment with my astrological sign, the day was for me an extended meditation on death, rebirth, degeneration, regeneration, the symbols stories and acts that appear in that sphere.  I took a mikvah dip with my dad at the Russian baths of the east village, kissed my grandmother’s loom which has made a great journey to New York, walked past the site of the recent destruction on the west side highway, and witnessed Marvel’s retelling of an ancient Norse myth of the end of days. 
 
The celebration continues this evening, and we will sing and learn and be in ceremony together. Come!  (First Presbyterian, 5th and 12th, 630pm). I find it difficult to teach in two places at once, here and there, so a taste will have to suffice. 
 
The extended meditation of the day, if I skip over all of its sauntering, ends at the eternal flame. Every synagogue, even ours without a foundation of cement, has a lamp that in metaphor if not in practice, stays lit at all times. 
 
I trace that concept to the burning bush where God appears to Moses from a flaming bush that burns without its body consumed.  The Midrash (along with my great-grandfathers commentary) offers us this tremendous image:
 
Why from a heart of fire?  From the two sides of the bush, the flame went out from the sides of the bush and from above it.  For the heart is placed between the two sides of the human being, and also above … Lev [heart/flame] is of dual meaning; it is the name for that organ from which life begins, and just as the heart is the center of being, it refers to the center of each and every thing up until the heart of heaven – a heart of fire.  (Tanchuma 14; Kasher, Torah Shelemah)
 
We will unravel its mystery tonight.  But the first gleaning is this – though it is an oft assumed fiction of the mind, death does not bring about an end. Death is the seed that initiates a new beginning. When we find a way to live in that frequency, even momentarily, we join in the dance of the circle of life.  That dance, that music, that burning, is true beyond anything we can know with our limited ego minds.  Every symbol of death is the kind face of the gatekeeper gently welcoming our presence. 
 
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Zach Fredman

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