Trust in your own unfolding
by Jhos Singer
This week’s Maggid’s Musing is sent to us from Israel, where Maggid Jhos is participating in the JCRC/Shalom Hartman Institute’s Christian-Jewish Leadership Project.
Shabbat Shalom Chaverim—
It’s 6:00 a.m. in Jerusalem. When I awoke, I could hear the muezzin in the distance. There was hardly any traffic noise, the stars of Orion were just above my window. A half an hour later, the city is just waking up, cars are whooshing down the streets, and I’m typing. This city is a mess, and a jewel, full of pain and promise. Her inhabitants are all slightly insane and inspiring. Every day without incident is both a miracle and a testimony of faith—and everyone here knows it. Peace is not a given in the holy city. Peace is what happens when people make room for one another without losing their own center.
This week’s Torah Portion, Lech L’cha (Genesis 12:1-17:27), begins:
“And the One That Is/Was/Will Be said to Avram, ‘Go, go to yourself. Go from your county and from your village and from your own family’s house to a land that I will show you.’ ”
And Avram does just that. He leaves everything he ever knew; he forsakes everything that had defined him; he sacrifices his superficial identity. Avram is having a spiritual awakening and shows us how to live a life of integrity and faith. This is the birth-pang moment of Jewish Spirituality, and it precedes Torah, Talmud, rabbis, prayer, holidays, and music. Avram puts his trust in his own unfolding and makes room to redefine all of his habits, belongings, and relationships. This is the bold, radical, scary, and beautiful practice that undergirds a spiritual life.
Last night we learned with two extraordinary teachers: Stephanie Saldaña and Karen Brunwasser. They are both passionate and open-eyed Jerusalemites. They spoke about the city’s unique combination of problems and promise. At one point Stephanie, a devout Catholic, taught, “When religion becomes an identity and ceases being a lived expression of faith, it leads to division. Faith is more important than the land you walk on.” She went on to say that anything we hang onto tighter than we hold onto our connection to The Oneness becomes an impediment to The Oneness.
Idolatry results from our clinging to stuff, to habits, to places, and what has been. Lech L’cha is the antidote—it is the stripping away of the external, a return to the essence of our own spirit. This teaching calls on us to embrace our very personal and ever-unfolding journey to what has yet to be revealed. At the core of the experience is the realization that we have to give up anything we love more than the journey itself. It is the full and unfettered embrace of the mystery, mayhem, and miracles that surround us.
The sun is fully up now—the streets are full of noise—and all around this city people are going, going to themselves. They will yell at each other in Hebrew, Arabic, Yiddish, English, Russian, French, and they will pray in Hebrew, Arabic, Yiddish, English, Russian, French….. They will bump into each other, step on one another’s toes, and will vie for space. And, amazingly, most of them will yield enough to maintain the peace.
May this Shabbat bring us a few steps further along on our journey, may it be peaceful here in Jerusalem and throughout the world, and—even more than that— may our hearts be open, loving, faithful, and kind.