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)

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Moving Story

A beautiful teaching from Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev on this week's Torah portion. Moses' brother in law (oops! Thanks, Don) father in law Yitro (Jethro) is dumbfounded that Moses is trying to adjudicate every single issue that arises among the people. He says to Moses Why are you doing this all alone with the people standing in front of you all day and night? (Exodus 18:14) and he warns him that this is too great a burden for Moses. He goes on to suggest that Moses create a system of lower-courts that will be administered by others, while Moses will just hear the most difficult cases.

Focusing in on the notion that the people are always "standing" in Moses' presence, Levi Yitzchak turns this moment of administrative problem-solving into an insight into the spiritual quest. He writes,

A person should constantly be moving from one spiritual level to the next, and should not stand in one position, with a static quality [lit: with a single aspect/point of view].
Moses was challenged not by the work of sitting all day hearing court cases. It was that a person of his spiritual stature was speaking all day with people who were always "standing in one position" and who didn't seek to move from level to level.

The exhausting challenge for Moses - the reason Yitro tells him a couple of verses later this will wear you out....it is too heavy a task for you - is to spend all day trying to lift the spiritual state of others around him, trying to get them to go from one level to the next.

How often have we in our own lives reached a point of comfortable stasis. Everything is just right but so, so wrong (there's a song about that). We stop growing, stop becoming.

The tzadik (righteous person) Moses is presented here by Levi Yitzchak not as the dispenser of judgments about Jewish law but instead as the great nudge trying to push people to get moving, to leave behind where they are to go to the next level. To live, to grow, to ascend.

Torah tries constantly to move us from one level to the next, to get us to refuse to accept our lives, our identities, our world as "given." It is constantly to be renewed and uplifted.

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