(In the Beginning)
God creates the world.
EVERY SHABBAT CELEBRATES CREATION and thus the continuing re-creation of our world. Creation begins with Light, (Or), which is another word for consciousness. God wraps us within garments of skin, (Or), which is Light (Or) made dense. Our physical bodies and the whole world that we see enfolds the Light of Creation. In this way, our world both reveals and conceals the Light of Creation.
Describing Creation the Zohar says:
The silkworm wraps itself within and makes itself a palace. This palace is its praise and a benefit to all. (1)
Our journey of consciousness/Light leads us through embodiment, the palace of existence, to Enlightenment, where God waits for us, ever present.
From the purity and innocence of Eden we journey forth through Duality (represented by the Tree of Good and Evil), through self-knowledge, suffering, and mistakes, towards the Tree of Life, a tree that is rooted in the Divine Reality, with branches that find their flower in our humanity.
THE BLESSING COMES as we receive a vision of “the palace” (physical reality) and let its praise sing through us. God is here, inside all Creation, radiant and waiting.
The teachings of Kabbala address the mystery of how the Divine becomes manifest, how the infinite enters the finite, how we might possibly bridge the chasm between God and Creation. Kabbala gives us the image of the Tree of Life with its roots in Heaven and its branches reaching into human awareness. The Tree has ten s’firot which form the pathways from the infinite to the finite. Each s’firah is perceived as a set of associated images that elucidate a certain quality such as Loving-flow, Boundaried-strength, Balanced Beauty, Endurance, or Sparkling-Glory.
THE TREE OF LIFE IS A VEHICLE FOR BLESSING. It is the connection between Heaven and Earth, between the infinite and the finite. The seven days correspond to the seven lower s’firot of the Tree of Life. Each of these seven days and s’firot blesses us with its own gift. Moving along the pathway of the Palace of Creation, we discover God Herself wrapped within. As we get closer, we ourselves unwrap the Mystery of existence: the presence of God within everything.
- WITH THE CREATION OF LIGHT (consciousness, the dividing of light from darkness) we receive the blessing of Chesed – of Love and Flow.
- WITH THE CREATION OF THE FIRMAMENT (the separation of the waters above from the waters below) we receive the blessing of Gevurah – Boundaries, Strength and Discernment.
- WITH THE CREATION OF LAND, sea, and vegetation, we receive the blessings of Tiferet – Beauty, Harmony and Balance.
- WITH THE CREATION OF THE SUN, moon, and stars, we receive the blessng of Netzach – Endurance.
- WITH THE CREATION OF FISHES and birds, we receive the blessing of Hod – Sparkle and Variety.
- WITH THE CREATION OF LAND ANIMALS and humans in God’s image, we receive the blessing of Yesod – Foundation, Regenerativity, Creativity.
- AND WITH THE CREATION OF SHABBAT, we receive Malkhut – the Indwelling Presence.
In receiving all these blessings we enter “the palace” where we may hear the praise of all Creation. Then, the power of our shining awareness, overflowing gratitude, and resplendent praise can send all of those sparks back to their Source.
THE SPIRITUAL CHALLENGE
OUR SOUL’S JOURNEY BEGINS WITH THE QUESTION, “Ayeka? Where are you?” Hearing God’s first question, Adam hides, saying, “I was afraid because I was naked.” The spiritual challenge of this beginning time is to know that we are utterly naked and vulnerable. Yet rather than hide, we are challenged to stand in our nakedness. We are spurred to uncover our essence, to let go of everything that we’ve acquired to keep us safe. We are required to stand in our vulnerability, to open to the power that moves through us. This vulnerability allows us to experience the energy and flow of an ever-shifting and dynamic Reality. Suzuki Roshi calls this condition Beginner’s Mind:
…mind free from possessing anything, a mind that knows everything is in flowing change. Nothing exists but momentarily in its present form and color. One thing flows into another and cannot be grasped. (2)
Even one moment of Beginner’s Mind wakes us up to the knowledge that we always perceive the world through our own specific lens. Our first challenge is to examine that lens in order to learn its peculiar distortions and colorings.
THE SECOND CHALLENGE is to receive Creation as a gift, experiencing the complete, swirling re-creation of the world in this present moment. Instead of trying to figure it all out by acquiring more and more data about the world, our challenge is to simply open to the gift of each breath and enter the process of freeing our attention so that we can receive, in radical amazement, the newness of each moment. This receptivity is dependent upon being present and finding a heart of gratefulness for this very moment.
THE THIRD CHALLENGE lies in becoming co-creators with God. Knowing that the world is being re-created at every moment, and knowing that I am created in God’s image, I am challenged to open myself to the flow of Goodness and to let that flow be expressed through the workings and play of my life. Then I can begin to know myself as a partner with God in the work of Creation. I can surrender the power of my imagination and the skills of my hands to the co-creative work of shaping a holy life. I am called into partnership.
GUIDANCE FOR PRACTICE
I will suggest three practices for this week of Bereshit, of beginning time, that might help us to rise to the spiritual challenges delineated above.
SEEING THE WORLD WITHOUT ITS CLOTHES ON
SIT OUTSIDE IN A PLACE of natural beauty and power. Close your eyes and gently let go of every thought. Return to the knowledge that the world you perceive consists of the garments of God. Immerse yourself in the knowledge that there is a special God-light hidden inside everything. Resolve to penetrate the surface of Creation in order to know God who is “wrapped” within this palace of Creation. With each out-breath, allow the world to undress, with each in-breath, breathe in the light that shines out from within Creation.
AN EXPLORATION OF GRATEFULNESS AND RECEPTIVITY
CLOSE YOUR EYES AND FOCUS on your breath. Let the breath slow and deepen slightly. With each in-breath receive the gift of your life, and then let each out-breath be an expression of gratefulness for the gift you have just received.
A VERY SIMPLE YET POWERFUL PRAYER
JUST SPEAK TWO WORDS directly to God. “Use me.” (3) If you are ready to say these words, (on some days I know that I am not ready or available) then open your eyes and be attentive to the opportunities for service that present themselves during the day. Another way to say this prayer is:
“Hineni, osah et atzmi merkava l’shekhina” (4)
Here I am, transforming myself
into a chariot for Divine Presence.
1 Zohar 1:15a; translated by Daniel Matt, Zohar: The Book of Enlightenment, Paulist Press, 1983
2 Shunru Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, John Weatherhill, 1970, p.138
3 This practice was shared with me by someone who learned it from Rashad Field.
4 I learned this phrase from Yitzhak Buxbaum’s book, Jewish Spiritual Practices.
Torah Journeys: The Inner Path to the Promised Land
©2006 Shefa Gold. All rights reserved.