Recently I attended a workshop on the Jewish soul, led by one of our esteemed congregants, Dr. Elior Kinarthy. After Elior provided descriptions of the reality of the soul, he invited us into a guided meditation, a visualization of our soul.
My role was primarily that of time-keeper, but I joined the group as we closed our eyes, to find that centre of our being. At first pinpricks of light filtered through the heavy darkness, and then the most extraordinary image came into mind. I saw first an aleph and then a lamed, and eventually the other letters forming Elohim. Each letter was “skating” if you will across the surface of my soul, inscribing God’s Name, God’s Self into my soul and I recognized again in that breath-moment that Torah is truly meant to be inscribed on us – not stone, not words on a page – but on us, for our souls to be, as the V’ahavta teaches, circumcised.
Similarly Emor invites us again to be holy, to emulate the holiness of Hashem. In verse 22:32—-God tells us v’nikdashti, “and I will be sanctified among the Children of Israel. God will be made holy in our presence!” Seems a bit chutzpadik on our part, but I found a fascinating teaching.
Rabbi Joe Rooks Rapport teaches from a classical commentary, P’sikta D’Rav Kahana, one of the oldest collections of midrash and commentaries on the Torah (about 6th century C.E.). The P’sikta teaches:
“You are My witnesses, says the Lord . . . that I am the One; before Me there was no God formed, neither shall there be any after Me” (Isaiah 43:10). Thus said Shimon bar Yohai: “If you are my witnesses then I am the One, the first One, neither shall there be any after Me. But if you are not My witnesses, I am not, as it were, God.” (P’sikta D’Rav Kahana, 12)
Let’s read that line again. If you are not My witnesses, I am not, as it were, God.
God’s existence is dependent on us knowing and revealing God’s Self through us – through our actions of kindness and truth. Just as I had seen God’s Name inscribing – skating (as only a Canadian girl could imagine) across my soul, so too must I inscribe God’s Name through my own actions, my own teachings. As the letters of God’s Name revealed themselves, one by one, gliding effortlessly in vast yet miniscule distances, so too do our lives reverberate beyond the limits of our bodies. Maybe not as effortlessly – Frank Mahovlich I am not – but my efforts, however clumsy, are demanded.
When I conduct a wedding I ask all guests to seriously consider their role as witnesses. Our courts – Jewish and civil – take the role of witnesses very seriously. We become the attestors, the ones who attest to the veracity of what we have witnessed.
In Emor, we are clearly to attest to the truth of God’s presence. While I am aware that this calls to mind Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking on doors, I wonder how we might broaden our witnessing of God in our lives, than behind the closed doors of our shul and each of our homes? As we enter our work as rabbi’s I suggest we find ways to bring Judaism beyond the length and breadth of our lives. Ideas?