Parashat Va-era 5777
Rabbi Meir Sendor
This week Tal Orot teamed up with an organization called Haverut to offer a workshop in Jewish meditation for therapists, physicians and social workers here in Tzfat on the campus of Livnot U’Lehibanot. Haverut is a society for healthcare professionals founded and directed by Dr. Rachel Fox-Ettun. Its mission is to enhance the healing process by facilitating genuine connections between caregivers, patients and their families. They employ art and music and training in compassionate presence to provide spiritual and social support in a comprehensive healing environment. Haverut helps patients and their families cope with the challenges of illness by channeling the creative and spiritual strength that resides within every person.
Our workshop began with all participants making music together to attune to each other – a delightful way to start. The meditation we practiced is called Histaklut, a kabbalistic gazing technique in which we meditate in pairs facing each other with eyes open, learning to use all our senses and sensibilities, even hidden powers of perception we may not have known we had, to receive and appreciate the full presence of the other. It’s a profound technique and many of the participants had moving experiences. It is a sacred trust to receive the full presence of another person.
At the beginning of this week’s parashah, HaShem has a heart-to-heart with Moshe Rabbenu, helping Moshe to appreciate that he is being granted a deeper revelation of HaShem than the Patriarchs received. Moshe had been discouraged by the results of his first meeting with Paro, but HaShem reassures him that he and Am Yisrael are under His direct, personal providential care. Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Epstein in his commentary on this parashah in his sefer Maor Va-Shemesh goes into an important and daring digression:
מאור ושמש שמות פרשת וארא
ונראה על פי פשוטו, דהנה כתיב (תהלים כה יד) סוד ה’ ליראיו, יש לפרש כך; דהנה יש להבין מה זה סודות התורה, שקוראין כל ישראל ‘סודות התורה’, שאין לומר שהכוונה על חכמת הקבלה וכתבי האר”י ז”ל וזוהר הקדוש – דהנה לשון ‘סוד’ הוא דבר שאי אפשר לגלות לאחרים כלל, והלא כל הקבלה וכתבי האר”י והזוהר יכולין לגלות לאחרים ולפרשם ביתר שאת, ואם כן כיון שנתגלה – אין זה סוד. אבל מה הוא סוד שאי אפשר לגלות לשום אדם – הוא סוד ה’. רצה לומר, עצם אלקות, שהוא היה הוה ויהיה, והוא עיקרא ושרשא דכולי עלמין, זה אי אפשר לגלות לשום בריה, רק כל אדם משער לעצמו השגת אלקות לפי שכלו ולפום שיעורין דלביה. וכל מה שהאדם מזכך עצמו, ויגע עצמו יגיעות הרבה להשיג – כך ישיג בשכלו הזך יותר ויותר. ומה שמשיג שכלו באלקותו יתברך – זה אי אפשר לגלות לשום אדם מעמקי לבו, מה שהוא בלבו ושכלו; הגם שיכול לדבר לאחרים ולהכניס בלבם מציאת אלקות ויראתו יתברך שמו – אבל כל מצפוני לבו אי אפשר לגלות להם, כידוע לכל מי שנכנס לעבודה באמת.
It would seem, according to the plain sense, that when it says “the secret of Ha-Shem is for those who fear Him (Ps. 25:14),” it should be expounded in this way. One should understand what is meant by secrets of the Torah… One should not say that the intent is the wisdom of Kabbalah and the writings of the Rabbi Yitzhak Luria, z”l, and the holy Zohar. For the term “secret” refers to something that it is impossible to reveal to others at all. But the entire Kabbalah and the writings of Rabbi Yitzhak Luria and the Zohar can be revealed to others and explained adequately. If so, since it has been revealed – this is not a secret. But what is a secret that is impossible to reveal to any person? This is “the secret of Ha-Shem.” That is, the essence of divinity, that He was, is and will be, and that He is the root of all the worlds, this is impossible to reveal to any creature. Rather, each person intuits for himself a grasp of divinity according to his intellect and the intuition of his heart. The more that a person purifies himself and exerts himself with great exertions to grasp, the more he will grasp with his pure intellect. And what his intellect grasps of His divinity, be He blessed – this is impossible to reveal to any person from the depths of one’s heart, of what is in one’s heart and mind. Even though one can speak to others and convey to their hearts the existence of the divine and reverence for Him, blessed be His Name – but all the depths of one’s heart it is impossible to reveal to them, as is known to all who have entered this work in truth.
Our most personal, intimate relationship with God cannot be expressed to another person. The same is true of our most personal, intimate relationships with each other. Even our efforts to express our love to the person we love are never enough. The sacred depths of relationship remain a precious secret, not given to words. Emmanuel Levinas extolls the ineffable mystery of the face to face relationship, the opening to the endless depth of the other. It is through our human relationships, says Levinas, that we discover openings to the divine:
The existence of God is not a question of an individual soul’s uttering logical syllogisms. It cannot be proved. The existence of God… is sacred history itself, the sacredness of man’s relation to man through which God may pass (R. Cohen, ed.,Face to Face with Levinas,p. 18).
Rabbi Saadiah Gaon, in his commentary on Sefer Yezirah, says: “in Heaven, it is all faces.” And so we sat together, face to face, with a sensitive group of caregivers, working on trying to become even more open and caring, trying to open to the depths of each other and the endless depth of the divine. We met in the meditation room on the top floor of Livnot U’Lehibanot, with a view of the sky and the mountains of the Meron range partially hidden in clouds, and it really was a little bit of Heaven.