This week's parsha
Freeing the Trapped Sparks
We were city kids who spent 99% of our lives in the Jewish neighborhoods of Melbourne. On the infrequent occasions in my childhood when we were schlepped out bush to go hiking with school or camp, you could almost guarantee what would happen at the rest break.
We’d be sitting around on some lonely trail, admiring the scenery or collecting wood, when a teacher or counselor would come running up, all excited.
“Guys, guys,” he’d burst out, “just think, what are the chances that any Jew has ever sat in this spot before? In the history of the universe there has probably never been a berachah (blessing) over food made right here, or a word of Torah taught!”
He’d gather us around and hand out biscuits or lead us in the recitation of a few verses. We’d join in, usually for the cookies, and then regular programming would resume until it was time to move on again.
In retrospect, we never really minded. It was kind of cool to think that we had bought G‑dliness to a place that had previously been barren of Judaism. Now that I’m older, I can recognize the philosophy underpinning the impulse.
There is a kabbalistic concept of “elevating the sparks of trapped holiness” that were ‘scattered’ during the process of Creation. The purpose of man’s journey in this world is to refine his surroundings and to reveal the inherent spirituality that lies beneath. Our teachers were demonstrating that we have the capacity to change reality. We can render a place G‑dly by our words and actions and transform an otherwise sterile landscape into a place of prayer.
The place which G‑d has chosen
We read about the annual bikurim ritual, where the ancient Israelites would bring an offering of their first fruits to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The Torah (Deuteronomy 26:2) describes the spot as the place which G‑d will choose, to have his name called there.
Whenever we come to a new place, we should bear in mind that we’ve been brought here for a purpose: to call G‑d’s name there. Wherever I go, whoever I see, I’ve got to keep in mind that it is my responsibility to publicize the G‑ds existence.
What am I doing here?
How often do we look around and wonder to ourselves how we ended up in our present environment. We look back at the choices we made and the paths we took that led us to this vantage point in life and question the vagaries of our fate.
There is a temptation to believe that it’s all just dumb luck. I don’t influence reality; I’m just a minor character playing a bit-part in a gigantic cosmic tragedy. At other times we invest ourselves with too great a sense of importance; like a little kid parading around in a cape, we believe ourselves to be the ruler of our own destiny.
From a Jewish perspective however, where I am now is where I’m supposed to be. G‑d placed me here for a purpose, but it’s up to me to make the right decisions. I have a unique opportunity right here to reveal the essential goodness and G‑dliness of my surroundings, and the choices I make now will influence reality and change the course of history forever.
We don’t have to wait until we’re off-road, contemplating the beauty of nature, to pray. Your home and office are just as much in need of spiritual rectification as any lonely waterfall. When we warm the lives of our family and friends with the light of Judaism and torah, we justify the creation of this world and render the fabric of our existence into a place where G‑d is chosen.