The opinions expressed in previous entries may or may not express the current opinion of the author.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Not by Bread Alone

This morning - I suppose it was this morning, but it could have been any time or any day - I was lying in bed, looking out of the window at the mountain, gathering my thoughts for the day. Perhaps I began a prayer - began to ask for things I need, or for things needed by friends and family members.

And then - I don't know - I saw a bird in a tree and suddenly thought: how paltry are the things I ask for, how meager, how mere.

Health, work, financial security, safe traveling, the success of projects, all kinds of things - all important things, but really, is that the best I can ask for? What does the world really hold in store for us? What are we looking for, what do we expect, what do we hope for?

Suddenly everything I was concerned with seemed so utilitarian and pragmatic.

Judaism holds that the mitzvot - the commandments and laws - are not to be thought of as useful or as accomplishing any purpose. They are to be performed because their performance gives God pleasure. Is this a clue as to how we should view the world? That the useful things, the necessary things are all well and good, but that the really important things have no utility.

I think of horses, of George - George, whose flesh and blood and stature make him ideal for carrying or pulling things or people. And Einstein, whose arms and legs no doubt would have made him a serviceable (if absent-minded) street sweeper.

And although the Enlightenment brought us many benefits for which we're grateful, we have almost imperceptibly slipped into something which is sometimes called The Mechanistic World View. Which isn't an inaccurate view, because that would be easy to disprove. But a misleading world view, which tempts us to believe that the entire universe is made up of utilitarian relationships, of cause and effect, of things necessary for other things, a world in which all mitzvot are performed for the sake of the usefulness thereof, and therefore are not mitzvot at all.

Yes, I want the safety of those I love. But should I stop after I've asked for that? Or should I ask for more love?

Do I want a horse who will carry me securely down the road, or do I want a horse who will reveal to me the goodness of God which is inside creation? I need to ask for more.
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?  ... For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6: 31-33)

1 comment: