In a book commended by Kathryn Rickert I found the following story from the Jewish mystical tradition. The book is Common Prayer on Common Ground by Alan Jones, 2006 [pages 41-42]. The author of the book calls this “Interlude.” I share it with you in hopes that you will find it as moving as I have.
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In the beginning before there were any beginnings and endings, there was no place that was not already God! And we call this unimaginable openness, Ain Soph—Being-without end. Then came the urge to give life to our world and to us. But there was no place that was not already God. So Ain Soph breathed in to make room, like a father steps back so his child will walk to him. Into the emptiness Ain Soph sets vessels and began to fill them with divine light, as a mother places bowls in which to pour her delicious soup. As the light poured forth a perfect world was being created!
Think of it! A world without greed and cruelty and violence! But then, something happened. The bowls shattered. No one knows why. Perhaps the bowls were too frail? Perhaps the light too intense! Perhaps Ain Soph was learning. After all no one makes perfect the first time. And with the shattering of the bowls, divine sparks threw everywhere! Some rushing back to Ain Soph, some falling, falling, trapped in the broken shards to become our world, and us.
Though this is hard to believe, the perfect world is all around us, but broken into jagged pieces, like a puzzle thrown to the floor, the picture lost, each piece without meaning, until someone puts them back together again. We are that someone. There is no one else. We are the ones who can find the broken pieces, remember how they fit together and rejoin them. This is the repairing of the world-the mending of creation. In every moment, with every act, we can heal our world and us. We are all holy sparks dulled by separation.
But when we meet, and talk and eat and make love, when we work and play and disagree with holiness in our eyes, seeing Ain Soph everywhere, then our brokenness will end, and our bowls will be strong enough to hold the light, and our light will be gentle enough to fill the bowls. As we repair the world together, we will learn that there is no place that is not God!
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In my own preaching, I have urged us, you and me, to believe something along this line. I have used the Hebrew phrase, tikkun olam, which I have rendered “repairing the world.” You will understand, then, how much I value this mystical story. Benedicite! wsa