Breaking News Today

The Great Order – Comments for Shabbah Shuvah

Published: in Jewish News by .

  The Great Order Comment on Shabbat Shuvah – coinciding with Torah portion Va-Yeilekh The tension between order and chaos is core to every facet of the human moral life. Life is entropy – things fall apart. Life is also striving to put things together. The creation story in the Bible goes from chaos to […]

The post The Great Order – Comments for Shabbah Shuvah appeared first on Jewish Journal.

 

The Great Order

Comment on Shabbat Shuvah – coinciding with Torah portion Va-Yeilekh

The tension between order and chaos is core to every facet of the human moral life. Life is entropy – things fall apart. Life is also striving to put things together. The creation story in the Bible goes from chaos to order and back to chaos.

The world was “tohu ve vohu” – an astonishing void. Light enters and creation commences. The human being is created, equipoised between heaven and earth. The human beings are placed in a “garden of delight,” a garden held in delicate balance with the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life at the center. The human being, however, casts this holy arrangement into great disorder.

The Bible proceeds from that moment of chaos. Using the biblical symbol, we awaken as human beings “east of Eden,” in exile, but knowing that there is a garden from which we have been exiled. Our entire religious tradition is set against the chaos, the entropy. We are aiming to get back to the Garden. The Days of Awe, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur and the days in between, are all constructed to get us back to the garden, to regain the great order.

When something goes out of order in our lives, our attention lasers in.  Spouses sometimes need to straighten each other out; parents need to put order into their children’s lives. In the political realm, disorder is everywhere. What specifically is disordered depends on your politics, but everyone agrees:  everything is falling apart.

READ:  Why a High Holidays prayer book is still going strong after 70 years

The reflective among us face the disorder within. We accept that we are very likely the disorder in someone else’s life. The nobler souls ask me, “Rabbi, how do I know whether I am the problem or whether they are the problem?”

The word “noble” means, at its core, “being known” (noble comes from the same word root as “know”). A noble person is known for putting what is right above their self-interests. A noble person is more interested in what is true than in what they might happen to think. A noble person seeks to restore the order, starting with the self.

The person who asks, “Who is right?” in a pertinent situation is at the core asking, “What is true?” How do we arrive at truth? For some, and I include myself here, this might be the core question of human existence.

Perhaps the best metaphor for arriving at truth is the trial. Evidence is presented. Facts and law are introduced. Theories are offered. And 12 righteous people must think themselves into what the law says, what the facts say, and essentially, they ask: what is true?

In our day-to-day consciousness, we all start out as plaintiff or defendant, prosecutor or defense. We accuse and point the finger, or deny and shake our heads “no.”

In reflective states, we aim to arise above “accuse or defend” and ascend into the role of judge: what is the law here?  And even higher – we arise into the mind of the juror:  starting out impartially, weighing the evidence, understanding the law, and arriving at a decision that is fair, just and true.

READ:  Scattered by Hurricane Ida, the Jews of New Orleans prepare for High Holidays

In brief: one of the ways that we bring order to our lives is to become our own judge and our own juror, seeking the truth, seeking justice. If we are wrong, we are wrong. If we are right, we are right. We don’t know until the end of the trial.

Existentially, of course, we are a mix of guilty and not guilty, innocent and culpable, our lives filled with extenuating and mitigating circumstances.

One of the core themes of the Days of Awe, Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur and the days in between is precisely this: bringing order to our lives through rational deliberation into the truth of the matter, the truth of each matter. For just a few days a year, we submit to a trial and face the specifics of our lives. We stop accusing and prosecuting others. We even stop defending. We only want to know one thing: the truth about ourselves. We can handle the truth.

Maybe the truth sets us free, but maybe it also chains us to the hard rock and work of reality. Ayn Rand is paraphrased as having said, “You can evade reality, but you can’t evade the consequences of avoiding reality.” Here is the quote from a talk “Ethics in Our Time” given in 1961 (we’ll excuse her anachronistic use of “man”):

“(Man) is free to make the wrong choice, but not free to succeed with it. He is free to evade reality; he is free to un-focus his mind and stumble blindly down any road he pleases, but not free to avoid the abyss he refuses to see. Knowledge, for any conscious organism, is the means of survival; to a living consciousness, every “is” implies an “ought.” Man is free to choose not to be conscious, but not free to escape the penalty of unconsciousness: destruction.”

READ:  Six Unsettling Truths Laid Bare by the Present Violence

We are free to avoid the truth but not to avoid the consequences of avoiding the truth.  This Shabbat is Shabbat Shuvah, the Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  On this Shabbat, we incline our hearts toward the specifics of the truths of our own lives. We commit ourselves to deeds that will create order out of the great disorder, to the paths that will take us back to the Garden, and to the love of the Divine that greets us in this journey.

 

 

 

 

 

The post The Great Order – Comments for Shabbah Shuvah appeared first on Jewish Journal.

Source: Jewish Journal https://jewishjournal.com/commentary/blogs/seeking-the-good/340495/the-great-order-comments-for-shabbah-shuvah/

Shares
Share This
Finance Advice 2021