Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Joy and Enthusiasm



In 5670 (1910), when Rav Kook was chief rabbi of Jaffa, he was asked: how can we inspire ourselves to worship God in joy and enthusiasm?

In his response, Rav Kook wrote:

It is difficult to briefly explain this fundamental aspect of serving God. The main inspiration for people like me is to set aside considerable time for thorough study of the spiritual parts of Torah, and not let it be cast aside for occasional reading. With such study, the light of the soul shines, and a spirit of happiness and vigor electrifies the heart that sincerely seeks out the truth.

Benefiting the Universe

Nonetheless, I will not withhold the benefit of establishing one important principle, although this too cannot be fully understood without much study and reflection. Still, it will provide a vehicle for the desire to attain the trait of loving God and sensing the light of our holy Torah.

It is manifest that even the basest individual would be thrilled to perform good deeds joyfully and energetically if he felt that his actions would benefit the entire universe, with all its infinite worlds. Indolence and enervation stem solely from doubting the extent of the good that we truly perform for all of creation, through our Torah study, mitzvot, Divine service, and refinement of character traits. For this purpose, God enlightened us with the writings of the holiest tzadikim, masters of the Kabbala. They enhanced our understanding of the preciousness of serving God, and how our service can uplift all of existence in all its aspects.

Yet, this idea needs to be brought closer to the intellect, so that the inspiration will be powerful and the joy will be well founded.

The Collective Soul of Creation

This mental image is achieved by contemplating the concept of "spiritual oneness". That is to say, the light of each individual soul is connected to the collective soul of all existence. All created things draw the light of their perfection from this collective soul. We have the power to increase the light in our souls at all times through Torah, wisdom, mitzvot, prayer, and character refinement. If we recognize that any time we enlighten our own souls, that we are benefiting not just ourselves but all of existence, then we can bestow perfection and life to all things.

Through us, the tzaddikim (righteous) are granted greater power in their service of God. The evil of the wicked becomes moderated and mitigated to some extent. Thoughts of penitence come to them. Even the animals are ennobled, in accordance with their level. Through the beautiful holiness that is added by one soul that truly cares about all of existence, even those creatures that tend to attack and damage are refined. And certainly great light is added to the sublime splendor of the souls, and in all levels of the spiritual worlds, boundless in their beauty and sanctity.

I was able to see these Stars of David up close and personal at FolkFest in Atlanta a couple of weekends back. The artist, mosaic guy Steve Terlizzese, was warm and personable and appears to love his work. He is NOT Jewish... but it has not stopped him from creating something that would be perfect in a Jewish home. And obviously, from my posting this, you know my feeling on the poll I had posted last month... Only 34 answered, but the majority beleive that being a Jew is not a prerequisite for creating Judaica.

1 comment:

marciad said...

These are beautiful. Thanks for sharing.