Making Worlds

unnamedDear Friends,

We complete the great holiday season as we roll the Torah back to its beginning and start the story anew. And what a wonderful beginning it is – spirit on the water darkness on the face of the deep. We take our existence for granted; maybe because we don’t like that our origin stories can never traverse the gap from myth to history or fact. Oh but the power of myth, its magic should more than suffice, and the mystery of our creation should be contemplated at least once a week, just before entering Shabbat.

The process of making a world is achieved in Jewish myth by the act of separation. Light separated from darkness, firmament divided from itself, heaven distinguished from earth, land from sea. The story is a map of human consciousness; it’s the story of how human beings perceive the world – always by the terrible twos. In the political and cultural climate of our day we can see the pain that this poisoned consciousness has wrought. Black separate from white, immigrant divided from native, wealthy from needy, red from blue, rights from principles.

And then a tree grows in the center of the garden, a tree of good and of evil, and the sages tell that it grew for thousands of years, and all the waters of the universe flowed between its roots. That’s when the poison infected all the world – the water you sip today, was once beneath the tree.

Adam and Eve eat from the fruit of that tree – some say it was wheat, some say grapes, some say it was an etrog! And their consciousness moves from a mode of knowing that didn’t perceive sides and oppositions, into the mind we know so well, that only sees that way. The Midrash says that God didn’t want them to be capable of what she was capable – the capacity to make worlds. By one telling, God ate from this tree and then made the world.

If this tree poisoned the consciousness of humanity, and that is its evil, it’s good must be the antidote to that very poison. With everything we tend to perceive dualistically – with race, with gender, with politics, with healing and sickness, love and fear, darkness and light, good and evil – there is another mode of knowing that allows the subtleties of interrelation that preceded creation to become manifest again. In so many of Rumi’s wisdom poems a great goodness arrives from an apparent evil – a man wakes up and he is being beaten by another, only to find upon wrenching his stomach that he had swallowed a serpent and would surely die, if not for that beating. We’re never capable of seeing all the outcomes that reverberate from a single act, some good and some evil, often inseparable. But there is tremendous wisdom to be gleaned from training our consciousness to reside in an alternate state.

How have you eyes been poisoned? Where do you only see in separated twos? Come back to the tree. Our teachers drew lines on paper pointing back to the source with instructions for tapping out the nectar that heals. Every field this community inhabits must be purified, and only you can be the tiller of your soil.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Zach Fredman

PS – Join me tonight at First Presbyterian Church (12 West 12th Street), as we sing in Shabbat together, roll the Torah back, and read the beginning of the story!



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