Waiting in a Minefield

The words and the stories of Torah are but its clothing; the guidance within them is its body.

And, as with a body, within that guidance breathes a soul that gives life to whoever follows it.

And within that soul breathes a deeper, transcendental soul, the soul of the soul: G-d Himself within His Torah.

Grasp the clothes alone and you have an empty shell. Grasp straight for the soul—or even the body—and you will come up with nothing. They are not graspable; they are G-dly wisdom and you are a created being.

Instead, examine those words and those stories, turn them again and again. As fine clothes and jewelry can bring out the beauty of the one who wears them, so these words and stories can lead you to the G-dliness that dwells within the Torah.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Grab the Clothing”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

I quoted the above in today’s morning mediation but it seems this particular lesson isn’t done with me yet. The “clothing” of Torah or of God (take your pick since they’re interchangeable in one way or another) is only one aspect of who we are. We refer to Jesus as “the Word made flesh” declaring that Christianity, as well as Judaism, has a tradition of imbuing the Torah with the life of the Divine, but what about the clothing that we wear as disciples of the Master? Interestingly enough, Rabbi Freeman has something to say about our live clothing, too.

There is a suit we wear that has a life of its own.

It is knitted of the fabric of words, images and sounds, mischievous characters that no one else can see—or would care to know.

You, however, hear them day and night, chattering, buzzing, playing their games in the courtyard of your mind. They are all the threads of the garment of thought that envelops you.

Leave your thoughts to play on their own, and they will take you for a ride to places you never wanted to see.

Grab the reins, master them, direct them, flex your mind, and they will follow. Provide them a script, and they will play along.

Do something quick, because you, after all, are dressed up within them.

We seek to be clothed in the holy but all the while, we struggle with the fabric of the mundane, which is the fabric of our human lives. I suppose that’s as good a way as any of describing the struggle we go through every day as people of faith living in a broken world. It’s also more personal because the brokenness is in each of us, not just in the world we inhabit. Rabbi Freeman says that we can achieve some manner of control over this “suit” we wear by giving it a “script” to follow, but make no mistake, taking control is not the same as shedding your skin, because after all, we “are dressed up within them.” We are all trapped in the mundane while longing for the holy.

Recently, I was accused of not understanding this particular lesson and failing to have compassion for people whose life of faith competed with the demands of family. I suppose I feel that demand a bit less because my children are not adults and are responsible for their own religious existence (or lack thereof), but I still experience the push, pull, and shove between the various “words, images and sounds” that make up the different forces that struggle for control over me. I continue to be encased by the competing priorities of man and God.

Part of the interesting dilemma of asking for advice when trying to make a decision, is that you get some. I’ve been asking for advice about the future of fellowship in my life and have been receiving both public and private messages in response. I’ve been forced to consider options that had not occurred to me and avenues I previously had not considered valid. I feel like a man standing in the center of a room with blank walls and no furniture and who is told that I am surrounded by explosive mines. I’m provided with several conflicting maps showing me a safe path out of the room, but I don’t know which one to trust. I’m also told that my own plans for escaping the room are flawed and will certainly lead to destruction.

There’s a difference between asking for and receiving advice, and then taking it.

I think this is one of those times when I’m supposed to be still and quiet and I’m supposed to patiently wait. As you know, I’m not very good at being quiet, but it seems I have no choice about waiting. In real life, making a move one direction or another won’t result in an actual explosion, but a wrong step will still result in making a mistake (which I suppose is inevitable, no matter what I do). On the other hand, I can choose to grab a chair and make myself comfortable in the center of the empty room. Perhaps this is where God wants me after all…or it may be the consequence I’ve built for myself as a result of my assumptions and decisions.

Either way, I am in an empty room with no clear way out…and God is here.

So I sit and wait for God to make the next move. My only question now is, will the wait be temporary or permanent?

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