There are two places to find the divine presence in all Her glory.
One: In the most holy of chambers, beyond the place of light and heavenly incense. There She is found by the most perfect of beings at the most sublime apexes of time.
The other: Beyond catacombs and convoluted mazes deep within the earth’s bowels. There She is found by those whose faces are charred with the ashes of failure, their hands bloody from scraping through dirt and stone, their garments torn from falling again and again and their hearts ripped by bitter tears.
There, in that subterranean darkness, they are blinded by the light of the hidden things of G-d, until that Presence will shine for all of us, forever.
So it is for the human spirit, and so it was in Solomon’s temple. There are two places for the Holy Ark: One in the chamber of the Holy of Holies; and one deep beneath that chamber, for us to find now.
-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“The Lost Ark”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
We should expect holiness in the most holy of places, in the midst of the Heavenly Temple of God. But how can we expect to find holiness in the darkest and most dismal abyss under the earth or in the darkest heart of man? Of course, if holiness is present there, then the darkness can no longer be dark.
Or can it?
In Judaism and particularly through the philosophy of the Chabad, each of us contains a spark of the divine; of heaven come down to earth, which gives us our own unique identity and purpose. This spark is forever seeking its heavenly source, which is probably why, often against our human will, we find ourselves inexorably searching for God, so that our spark may return to Him.
I’ve recently been exploring the humanity of Jesus and have encountered some occasional resistance to my considering the “flesh” along with the spirit, but if God is One and we are, in some sense, part of God, even as Jesus was and is, then can we always separate the physical and the ethereal? Rabbi Freeman comments:
Yes, G-d is one. But, to share an analogy from the Maharal of Prague, from a simple point an infinite number of lines may be drawn through infinite dimensions.
So, too, with that divine spark within: On the one hand it is the same simple point within each one of us. Yet how that point expresses itself within you—another facet of the diamond, another ray of the light—that is unique. Both aspects, the point and its expression, are equally divine.
There’s no way to resolve this in some sort of mechanical sense or by use of a formula or diagram. This relationship within our human existence that connects to God exists, otherwise I would hardly be so obsessed with discussing it, yet I have no ability to explain the connection. The light is there in my inner darkness and it’s doing something, but I don’t know what it is, because I can’t clearly see it.
As I review my recent “meditations,” I find I’ve been writing about this a lot in one way or another. I have written of our human limits in exploring knowledge of God and how, though we are holy, can desecrate not only God, but ourselves.
Recently, I discovered that my original purpose and goal in creating this specific blog was completely in vain, and now I turn to God not knowing what to expect, and wondering if I should expect anything at all. I’ve even gone so far as to ask, in a completely Christian venue, if it’s possible for someone like me to find a church in which I, with all of my theological idiosyncrasies, could ever be at home (so far, it hasn’t worked out very well).
For many years, I called myself “Messianic,” but found that many Jews in the Messianic Jewish movement, to which I had once thought myself attached, objected to a non-Jew identifying himself as such. The Jews in Messianic Judaism saw me as a Christian, and my Jewish wife and children see me as Christian, in spite of my atypical beliefs. When I created this blog, I was determined to honor how they see me and to distance myself from anything that might cause them discomfort, and I agreed to call myself a Christian. I also felt that, if I wanted to reach a wider audience, which is part of the goal of this blog, I should attempt to reconnect with the larger body of Gentiles who call upon the name of Jesus.
So I’m a Christian.
But I wonder now if any of that matters. No, I’m not going back to calling myself “Messianic” or any variation on that theme. If indeed, it is a designation that is uniquely Jewish, I am content to leave it in that place and for those people who were called to the Creator and chosen at Sinai. But in leaving that behind, (if it was ever truly mine in the first place) I find, like fictional author George Webber (in Thomas Wolfe’s novel), you can’t go home again. I have no choice but to proceed forward into the dark unknown and seek a future to which I am blind.
And yet, if I dare the conceit of believing that the divine spark exists in me too, then the light must be there illuminating my darkness, though I can see nary a glimmer. If the spark exists, then does it conclude within me as Rabbi Freeman describes?
These two facets of the divine spark are expressed in every mitzvah: On the one hand, the act of the mitzvah is the same for each person–corresponding to the simple, essence-point of the soul. But the mental focus and passion you invest into the mitzvah, that is uniquely yours, expressing the unique mission of your soul.
Spiritual or “fleshly” (the latter being considered with disdain by many disciples of Christ) seem to be interchangeable in Jewish thought, like matter and energy in the realm of physics. In Judaism, you connect to the holy by performing “worldly” charity. I suppose it’s not as noble as prayer, laying tefillin (though this is a physical act), or singing the ancient Hebrew prayers, but it is something that is as accessible to me as to any of you reading this, or to any person who really can see only their holy light and nothing of their darkness.
Part of this blog, and my previous writing attempt, was to reinvent myself to be more consistent with how my understanding in God was being reinvented. Now I find that there is no rest for the “legless bird” and I must still continue to soar and search and continue to reinvent and reconfigure who I am and who I am in Him.
But to reverse causality, I’m going to ask the question that Rabbi Freeman already (supposedly) answered:
If the core of my being is a “spark of G-d,” then where is the me in me?
Is there a “me” in my or, as Rabbi Freeman also has said, there is only a “me” in the doing of mitzvot?
What is divine wisdom?
Divine wisdom is the inner delight of the Infinite, condensed and crystallized until fit for human consumption.
What is a mitzvah?
A mitzvah is divine wisdom condensed and crystallized until it can be performed as a physical action.
That is why in the study of Torah there is infinite delight.
That is why in the act of a mitzvah there is unlimited joy.
—Maamar Arbaah Rashei Shanim Heim, 5731
Somewhere in each of us, there is a spark of holiness. Somewhere in the holiness, is a lost human being, struggling in the glare and the abyss, trying to find his way, his face, and his name.
Somewhere in the sky, there is a bird, like the dove of Noah, soaring over an endless sea searching for a place to land and rest. Does the bird search in vain, as do I?
8 thoughts on “The Long Flight Home”
Holiness is located in some very interesting places. Although I only know you virtually, based on your blog I can say with deepest conviction that you possess a somewhat uncommon holiness – a holy curiosity expressed in holy inquiry. I can’t speak for the results of your inquiry, but in my book, the only imprimatur that truly counts is stamped on the process you unveil on your blog (almost) daily.
Thank you for your encouragement, Carl. I wonder if this is a case where I’m too close to the tree to see the forest.
Perceiving anything holy about oneself is a sort of out of body experience. Seriously. Just the idea freezes one in place and forces one to be subject and object at the same time; not the best way to move through life. So don’t linger on my comment too long.
Lingering on comme… Oh, look! Bright lights!
Sorry. Couldn’t resist. 😛
Yes, James – there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
A coming train of holiness….LOL!
I’m sure that’s exactly how the coyote felt whenever he chased the road runner into a railroad tunnel, Dan. 😉
I can totally relate to you questioning where you fit it, congregation wise. I struggled with that for 10 years. I see Jesus as a Jew, the Bible as a Jewish book, the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob as a Jewish God yet God. Yet God has me at a Calvary Chapel Church. I think it’s as close as I’m going to get. They still celebrate Christmas, but host Passover Seders. I shared with you how I got blocked on this blog.
I find that because I’m not Jewish I am treated as if I have no room to question anything Jewish, in Jewish circles even among the believers in Yeshua and I ran into that at this blog. I shared on this blog how I know a Sephardic Jewish believer who is an ordained Baptist, minister I met in the 70’s as a new believer, who I tracked down 2 years ago on the internet, he still calls himself “A Hebrew Christian”.
This was the only link I could find that might explain why. That seems to be a big deal in the Messianic movement, what you call yourself.
I like your writing. It’s so Jewish. I relate to your struggles.
I want the body of Christ to be one, but not lthe way Glen Beck in advocating. I exposed you to another one of my favorite blogs on one of your other posts. She writes what I can’t.
You’re in a totally different place than I am at. I’m looking at all the apostasy going. It distresses me greatly.