Isn’t this strange, that a created being should take part in its own creation? Can a caricature hold the pencil in his artist’s hand? Can the characters of your own story edit your words? Can the figments of your own imagination tell you what to imagine?
Yet here we are, created beings pleading with our Creator, “Grant us life! Good life! Nice things! Be out there, in the open! Get more involved with your world!” Here we are, in the inner chamber of the Cosmic Mind, where it is determined whether we should be or not be, participating in that decision.
We are created beings, yet there is something of us that lies beyond creation.
-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Pleading to Exist”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Earlier this week, I talked about how we are like plants in a garden that must cooperate with the gardener for our existence and well-being. Yesterday, I commented that we act as co-creators with God of the “rebooted” universe on Rosh Hashanah. In the words quoted from Rabbi Freeman above, we see that we are indeed unique created beings in that we participate in our own creation and continued development. We are the painting and God is the artist, but both God and man have their hands on the paints and brush. Yet, do we dare contend with God?
But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? –Romans 9:20-21
Of course, God has the final say, as one of these men understood:
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” –Luke 18:9-14
Apparently, this is a lesson that the tax-collector knew all too well, but not so the Pharisee. The tax-collector wasn’t just asking God for goodness and favors, he was pleading for his very life. By comparison, the Pharisee was very confident in the status of his life and his relationship with God, but according to the Master, his confidence was very foolish. The Pharisee was depending only on his outward appearance and behaviors and assumed that if other people were impressed, God would be impressed, too. Not so.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. –Matthew 23:25-28
I’m not inditing all of the Pharisees and I don’t believe Jesus was either (consider Nicodemus), but he was declaring that many people in positions of religious authority were being hypocritical by behaving as if they were obeying God and harboring “hypocrisy and wickedness” inside.
It’s the same with us. Not only should we take the opportunity afforded by Rosh Hashanah to examine what we are doing, but what we have inside our hearts. Do we say we love our fellow man but curse him behind his back? Do we claim devotion to God but still deliberately sin in secret?
At sundown tonight, Rosh Hashanah begins and continues for two days. Like a certain tax collector, let us beg for God’s forgiveness, let us plead for a life with great dedication to God in the New Year ahead.
For the holiday, I won’t be submitting meditations on Thursday and Friday and because Shabbat begins when Rosh Hashanah ends, my next blog will be on Sunday morning.
L’shanah tovah tikatev v’taihatem. May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.