Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Completing the Cycle

היום תשעה וארבעים יום שהם שבעה שבועות בעמר
Today is the forty-ninth day, making seven weeks of the omer
מלכות שב מלכות

A day of majesty in a week of majesty

The seven week cycle is now complete. I have counted each of the 49 days, and noted each combination of the sephirot. Each day has a thought, a point of view, a story. I've taken the biblical ritual with the medieval kabbalistic layer and made it an expression of my practice.

The Torah reading for this coming Shabbat is Naso. It's a parasha that covers a lot of ground--the sotah, the nazarite, the priestly blessing. The parasha ends with the dedicating of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. We hear about each of the tribe's offerings--which are exactly the same. But the description is repeated for each tribe. Why would this be written in this manner? Couldn't the gifts been listed once, prefaced by "Each tribe gave . . ."?

One easy case to be made is to reference the oral transmission of our sacred texts. The more the words are chanted, the easier they are remembered. The emphasis the comes with the repetition also brings to the listener the enormity of the celebration.

I have my own midrash on this event. Each year--and on Hanukkah--when we read this, I get this image of the uniqueness of each tribal offering, not their sameness. The repetition tells me to image how one tribe brought the offerings with a song, another with a dance, another with a skit. They were presented on cloths of different colors and different patterns for each tribe.

And that is one way to approach a life of practice. We all have the same basic tenets of ethics of how to live together in this world. Taking on a commitment of spiritual practice is a fluid experience--you learn, you ingest, you accept, you adapt, you continue to learn. The best sort of practice is the one that grows with you.

I leave now for my final preparations to "stand at Sinai" -- to study and take in the Torah in commemoration of the time of it's first offerings. May my study be as sweet as the first fruits that we also celebrate. May we all find a way to respect ourselves, each other, all around us, and the world we live in and accept each uniqueness the contributes to the One.

חג שמכח
Chag Sameach

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