A Grain of Sand

"I will multiply you as the stars in heaven and as the sand upon the shore." - Genesis 22:17

"I can see the master's hand in every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand." - Dylan, Every Grain of Sand (on Shot of Love)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Closing in on Change

Rosh Ha-Shanah approaches (Monday night). Rosh Ha-Shanah, "Beginning of the Year" can also be understood as the "Beginning of Change" because the words "year" and "change" both have Sh-N-H as their root. I've been thinking a lot about the possibility of change and the dynamics of change.

Can we change? Can the world be changed? This is the challenge to faith - not whether God exists or not, is good or not. If there is anything that we are required to believe in, it is that change is possible - that we are not plants, living out our days waiting to die and be reprocessed as worm feces. Rather, that we inherit a life of a certain sort in a world in a certian condition and we can, through struggle and insight, rise above the contingencies of our existence.

The Aish Kodesh, about whom I've written before, writes very powerfully about the challenges to change. In the past I've focused on actions, on making sure not to do certain things, or to do certain things. The AK views this not even as a low level of change, but as a deeply unhealthy and impermanent form of change.

Instead, he says, we have to work on the person behind the actions, the soul that animates the being. How is it possible that a soul can change itself? What gives it the capacity to move itself from one state to another? The "it" that is seeking to change can become it's own object? Whatzamadda-you?

This is yet another aspect of the word teshuvah, commonly translated as "repentance." The word literally means "answer" and is related to the word "turn." In the process of teshuvah we turn in on ourselves, and, seeking to arrive at the root, examine what and who we are. But the end of the process is the ongoing work of moving ourselves from a lower to a higher state.

And this is the final goal of Rosh Ha-Shanah. Not to make changes to outer appearance or to acts alone. But to try to get at the root and repair what is broken.

1 comment:

  1. Comments about Change “Onemoregrainofsand.blogspot.com”
    The Lord God Almighty of Israel and the Universe is constantly changing everything in our present environment on Earth and He is doing the same thing in Heaven. Since most of us live on Earth we are presently more concerned with changing the environment of Earth rather than changing the environment of Heaven.
    Rabbi Josh is speaking of a change in the attitude and a change in belief of each and all individuals in the world so that peace and justice will be everywhere and appreciated by all living souls.
    When this happens and our praises are expressed to the living Lord God Almighty, He will restore our planet to the Garden of Eden cleanliness, freshness and beauty. He will restore our minds to the freshness of a new day. He will restore everyone’s body to health.
    When the World begins to engage in study and prayer and we do not believe that the Lord is deaf and cannot hear our prayers or that He does not know what we are doing in secret, He will begin to bless us. But if we consider Him dead or just a man, the He will not be able to bless us individually or collectively to the scale He wants to.