Posts Tagged With: coexist

Time, Humans, God.

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My posts have been very long.  I am usually quite wordy when I write something, and I don’t know if that is a good thing or not.  I have been up way too late recently, sometimes writing blog posts, sometimes doing other things, but I need to get to sleep earlier.  In that vein, I am going to attempt the impossible: to write a post in under twenty minutes so I can still get to bed before midnight!  It is 11:38 right now.

The night before last, I heard some noise from the loft in our house (where my fourteen year-old sleeps).  I called up, “Patrick?  Whatcha doing?”

“I’m getting dressed.” He responded, in a bit of a snippy tone.

A pause.

“What time is it?” He asked, sounding frustrated.

“11:15 at night.”

“Nevermind.”  He said. “I’m not getting dressed.”

Another story:

A few years ago, I spent the beginning of pesach (passover) in Brooklyn.  We had just finished services at the yeshivah, and I went into the coat room to get my coat.  A man was in there, mid fifties I’d say, great big black beard.  With him was another man who I assume was his father, who had a great big white beard.  The younger man said to me, “It is so nice to see you again!  How long has it been?”

“Many years.” I said to him, with no air of sarcasm.

The older man then said,  “What is time?  A year is but a month, a month is but a week, a week is but a year.”

As we walked back to the house, I told the rabbi and his son what had been said, and they looked at me a bit sideways when I related my response.  “I was meaning in terms of a few thousand years…since we were all at Sinai.”

In Jewish tradition, the soul of every Jew–dead, living, yet to live, and even those who would convert–was present at Sinai.  Every Jew heard the declaration from Hashem (G-d), and accepted the covenant there.  In a way, it had been only a month, a week, a day.

What is time, anyway?  Time doesn’t really exist, except in our minds.  Time is a system of measurement that gauges our productivity in this world.  In fact, if not for the fact that we live within a society that demands that we give our time to it, we would have no need for it.  My son, when he awoke in the middle of the night, heard me awake downstairs and assumed that it was time to get up for the morning.  He had been a little under the weather the previous day, and so he had already slept a lot.  When he woke up, he must have been fairly rested, therefore it must have been morning.

Where does time come from?  Where does our need to set time come from?  In Judaism, the earliest example of time known to man comes from the dictate from G-d to set holy days, and to call off the seasons and months.  We are to usher in rosh hodesh (the head of the month) with trumpets.  Rosh hodesh, in fact, is a minor holiday in Judaism…something that most jews–I think–either forget or never knew.  We are also commanded to bring offerings at particular “seasons” of the day, if you will.  There is a dictate to bring the morning, afternoon, and evening offerings.  Our prayer times are set around these three offerings, and the dictate to twice a day recite the words of the shema, “love the Lord your G-d with all your heart, all your soul, and all your capacity,” etc, in Vayikra (Leviticus) and Devarim (Deuteronomy).  This is to be recited, “when you lay down, and when you rise,” and so there are certain times to do this which correspond to the appropriate times to bring the offerings of morning and evening.

What did this man really mean with his question, “What is time?”  Perhaps he was referring to the way in which Hashem experiences time.  We believe that Hashem (G-d) is outside of time, omnipresent.  If Hashem is omnipresent, then the past, present, and future must all be blended–a synergy of time–and so time does not really exist.  A year truly is a month, a month a week, a week a day.  When Moshe Rabbeinu AHS (Moses our teacher, peace be upon him) meets Hashem for the first time, and Hashem tells him to go to his people and bring them out of bondage, Moshe says (paraphrased) “What’s your name?  When I go to the Israelites, who shall I tell them is their G-d?”

Hashem replies saying, “I will be that which I will be.” Again, Moshe asks, and Hashem responds with a curious word as a name.  This name is so holy, that we don’t even speak it, though many have tried to decode its pronunciation.  He takes the words for “was,” “is,” and “will be,” and squishes them together into one word, the ineffable name of G-d.  What is he telling Moshe at this point?  I think that what he is saying is, “I exist outside the realm of your comprehension.  I exist outside of time and matter, yet intrinsically intertwined with both.  There is no name that can apply to me.”  Further, he seems to be saying, “You can’t put me in a box.  You humans think you are so smart!  First you name something, then you can subjugate it, then you can rule it.  But I cannot be named!  I cannot be ruled!”

The Hasidic Jews of the Breslov movement have a way of describing this that may not immediately make sense in this context.  They say, “I am nothing.  You are nothing.  Only Hashem is.”  In other words, everything that we see.  Everything that we count as being “real,” is really just temporal existence.  All matter will change, all beings will die.  The earth will someday cease to exist, but still the essence of the universe, the mysterious energy that animates all atoms in it, it will continue to be.  Why?  Because that which we cannot see, touch, taste, measure, or quantify, that IS.  Everything else “is nothing.”

So what of time?  Time cannot be seen, touched, tasted, smelled.  Time can be quantifiable–is quantifiable–yet we can never make more of it.  In fact, it is such a finite resource for us, that we often feel loathsome toward the prospect of “burning” time.  But how can we be so concerned with losing time, that we drive ourselves insane?  Perhaps it is because we have attempted to take that which is inconceivable, and ineffable, and put it in a box.  But with all our gears, and levers, the only thing that we can actually measure is our place within time, as it wends its way around our collective consciousness.

It is 12:37 now.  I am 38 minutes “late.”  I have not made my goal of time.  I have not, however, finished late.  Neither do I ever finish my tasks early.  I finish precisely when I am meant to.

Torah of Time

By: Natan Zalman
Is time as it seems?
What is a thousand years to a soul?

It is not as it sounds. A thousand are but a hundred,-a hundred

but a dozen-a dozen but one; a year is but a month-a week-a day-an hour-a second frozen

in cryogenic suspension.

 

My soul does not lack for patience,

it does not even know the necessity for such things.
A heart is but a pound of flesh. What is time to the heart?

Exactly as it seems. A second,       an hour,                 a day——all are excruciatingly

long as a thousand years.”

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Universalism, Tolerance, Education

 coexist

A friend of mine goes to the local Unitarian Universalist Church here.  She’s one of the teachers in the teen group, and asked me if I would come in to talk to the kids about Judaism.  Now, she and the other teachers did tell me that Judaism is the one faith which they did not research very much before visiting the synagogue, and having a guest speaker, but I didn’t expect so few questions from the kids.  It really brought back for me, a general ethos of our society that if you have to ask questions, you are somehow inadequate as a person.  This may not be an actuality, but it sure seems as if it is, and it definitely seems to be more prevalent among teens.  As a quick aside, if you do not belong to a traditional religion, but you would like some kind of spiritual fellowship, they are all quite nice at these churches without you having to commit to a particular religion.

One of the kids in the class was very curious, and so, asked many questions.  I guess it could be that curiosity is just something that comes with maturity.  I remember when I was a kid, that those who were outspoken, and different-minded, were often those that were thought of as nerds or weirdos.  It is so amazing how much time changes that kind of thought for many of us!  Now, this kid is probably the type of kid who is thought of as a nerd, or a weirdo, but I am starting to thing that an attitude of curiosity shows two things: maturity (as I said above), and an individuality.  In fact, perhaps the true rebels of society aren’t the ones doing drugs, or dyeing their hair, or listening to “objectionable” music.  Perhaps the true rebels are those who will not simply be sheep, content to hang out, unquestioning.

The scientific method depends upon inquiry.  All knowledge, in fact, depends upon inquiry.  Since all knowledge depend upon inquiry, so too, does all education depend upon the willingness of people to step outside their comfort zone, and ask questions that need to be asked.  I used to ask my kids, when I picked them up from school, “what did you learn today?”  Increasingly, I am trying to change to asking, “what questions did you ask today?”  They are still kids, so there isn’t very much dialogue in such cases, but I am hoping to imprint upon their brains that questioning is a very important and positive thing.  Especially as our children grow older, and start understanding that mom and dad don’t actually know everything–as they assume when younger–it is even more important that we teach them first hand, the priority of curiosity, and diminish the importance of being correct.  We must question, without giving up who we are in the process.

One thing that I think we can definitely learn from the Unitarian church is the ability to step outside our comfort zone to ask questions.  It is good to learn about other people, and what is important to them–what makes them tick, if you will.  Ignorance is the biggest obstacle to acceptance and tolerance.  Tolerance, however, is not always what modern society seems to think it is.

Tolerance means accepting others for who they are, and not trying to change them, but it doesn’t mean that you have to diminish yourself, or join in with their particular beliefs.  My fourteen year old doesn’t seem to understand this simple point.  The other day, he thought it was ridiculous that I wouldn’t pray facing a christmas tree.  I told him that it was a pagan fertility symbol, and that I wouldn’t pray facing it.  He got all indignant and said, “I thought Jews were supposed to be tolerant of other’s beliefs.”  I simply responded that, “yes, we do not force anyone to be Jewish, so yes, we are tolerant of them.”  Ironically, it was his indignant attitude regarding what I would and wouldn’t do concerning my spiritual worship that was intolerance.

In this day of false “coexistence” we are less free to be the people we actually are.  When I see the bumper stickers with this credo on them, it makes me think that even the thought of coexistence is something that must be foisted upon people, as if it is simply another form of intolerance.  While I don’t think that people should be disrespected based upon race, creed, etc, I also don’t think that we should all be lumped into one pile of being.  To do so would deny the uniqueness that makes us, and the world, beautiful!  Some of us are short, tall, round, thin, strong, meek, fast, courageous, timid, extroverted, introverted, etc.  We are all human, and so there are “certain inalienable rights” that we all should give one another, but we must also understand that we are not all the same.  We are equal in that first category, but we are not equal in all ways.  IF we continue to operate under the false pretense of absolute equality, we will do great detriment to future generations, and a great disservice to ourselves.  IF we do this, we remove the opportunity for tolerance, and education, and replace it with a mask of universalism–while denying the universe.

so, Shalom, Salaam, Pax, Paz, and Namaste, to the universe…including all of you unique and beautiful creatures who make it the wonderful place to live.  I appreciate you not in spite of your differences, but because of them.

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