“I have always thought it would be a blessing if each person could be blind and deaf for a few days during his early adult life. Darkness would make him appreciate sight, silence would teach him the joys of sound.” - Helen Keller
Contrasts – darkness and light - separation and return - life and death. Perhaps it may be only through the experience of these contrasts that we can gain an appreciation for even those things that put us outside our comfort zones.
A friend of mine who is a shaman, a healer and a life-coach recently explained that part of the reason so many people are in turmoil and pain for so much of their lives is because they – in fact, all of us – begin life outside the womb by immediately being severed – anatomically, at least - from the nurtured existence we had while in the womb. Think about it: our very first freestanding, out-of-womb experience is one of being cut off from the inherent comfort and love we knew for what probably seemed like eternity. This is, perhaps, our first, personalized object-lesson in contrasts.
But, how different is the birth of a human child from the birth of all Creation, which we retell this week with the reading of Parashat Bereshit – the Torah portion of Genesis?
"And God said, 'Let there be light': and there was light.
“And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness." Genesis 1:3-4
The Kabbalists (originally, Jewish mystics of the 13th-16th centuries) tell us that Creation began when HaShem contracted-in to create a void, into which that which we call “Creation” would be poured by HaShem; thus, creating our universe – separate and independently definable - from HaShem’s divine presence.
In this way, perhaps, we can see how the Kabbalistic view of the birth of the world and the defining moment of human birth BOTH occur amidst an act of separation; and, while those moments of separation may be painful and disorienting to their respective products, it is in that instant of dawning of the recognition that we have lost something – that we have lost the peace inherent in unity – that we begin to understand and appreciate the importance of that unity or “togetherness” to us, in contrast to that which we can then know as “separateness”.
And once we gain this critical perspective, once we see the gap between ourselves and HaShem, once we recognize the loss of our intimate connection to another, then we can begin to take the first steps toward healing those rifts.
This is true whether we need to heal from our separation at birth . . . or from rifts that may have developed over time within our own psyches . . . or from rifts that have grown between family members, or between cultures . . . and, yes, even between ourselves and HaShem.
So, what can we learn from this? Perhaps – rather than bemoaning our first physically independent, human experience – we may actually see it for cause to celebrate the start of what will become our lifelong journeys toward reunification with HaShem.
This week, as we begin anew the annual cycle of the reading of the Torah, as we retell of the birth of Creation, let us use as a meditative mantra: “Yom Huledet Sameach!” – “Happy Birthday” - to the world; and Happy Re-birthday to those of us who, with this perspective, also now may be better able to see and appreciate the value of experiencing contrasts in our lives.
Next Week: “How one can create a simple Jewish meditation practice.”