Keep the Waters Rising
by Shaul Judelman, Yeshivat Bat Ayin
Here rolls a little Jewschool frabrenginâ€¦
Itâ€™s the new moon of Shevat tonightâ€¦ according to the infamous outdated and awaited House of Shamai, tonight is the birthday of the treesâ€¦Not the full moon Tu bâ€™shevat of Hillel, but right now, in the as yet unseen space. Here in Israel, it was a beautiful sunny day after a cloudy rainy Shabbat- and we hit the hills, digging out new holes for some 4 year old olive transplants. Digging the earth- the preparation for plantingâ€¦ Tu bâ€™Shevat is a holiday in reference to the fruits- and I feel Shammai is more connected to the rootsâ€¦I and I at the Rootâ€¦ That Bob Marley song, Blood is thicker than waterâ€¦ our Blood, our roots, the place where we come from.. Today is a time to dig into itâ€¦ for the deeper oneâ€™s roots are- the farther out the branches may spread (that was a torah I learned from a Big Leaf Maple in Seattle WA)) the longer we develop our trunk, â€œThatâ€™s why I build my house, on a solid foundation.â€ Gladiatorsâ€¦
There is a principal I like to test out that says the more I can pull back the rubber band, the farther out I can goâ€¦ The more deeply and integratedly I am connected to Hashem, our peoples path and my self as a member of these webs- the more I can act freely in the world. So much of our time, action and energies can be wasted on â€œproving our selvesâ€™ in the eyes of others- yet the people who are at home with their self- even if confused as to the bigger questions of what it means and where really to focus- there is a great calming energy from not running after this style or that fad to be identified with. The identity politics that our sociology prof talked about- is a very real phenomena lying behind the restlessness of our generation. There is a very real Yetzer (urge) to run after what my eyes, or the television report as cool. And it is especially true in the culture that disassociates itself from the mainstreamâ€¦ The drive to dive into a cause- Free Tibet, Save the Whales, anti-WTOâ€¦ I am not saying anything about these causes- they are the most righteous of righteous things to be done- and there is absolutely no shortage of them in this mixed up upside down mess weâ€™ve created for ourselvesâ€¦ But that inner rest of first listening deeply for my roots- and then to let that guide my activismâ€¦It means my actions are coming from a deep space.. The Zohar teaches that a mitzvah, an action by itself, is like a candle, easily snuffed by the windâ€¦ But a mitzvah done by a person connected to the Torah of that mitzvah- to the depth from which that Mitzvah stems, is actual LIGHT< beyond being put out.
This teaching about mitzvoth sheds understanding on all our actions. When they are not rooted from a real personal connection they are all too easily dismissed and forgotten. The real affective actions and life paths are those that are grassroots, coming from within a greater context. It also allows for our spiritual life to bleed into our actions, imbuing everyday decisions with a higher connection. That was the real attraction that Israel and Judaism offered me, a grounding from within a world so writhing with choice and illusory opportunities to â€œfind myself,â€ be a part of something greaterâ€¦
Our roots are such a blessing in the post-modern age- The more comfortable we become with them- the teshuva returning to our selves- the less we have to define ourselves in such sharp waysâ€¦ It is the religious baâ€™al teshuva who is still forging personal identity that needs to slam on a black hat and castigate those not holding their truthâ€¦ There is a deeper more expansive place of roots that will allow a true flowering for our peopleâ€¦Rosh Chodesh Shevat, the Beit Shamai time, is a day for digging deeper searching for our own personal connection to the waters of our faithâ€¦ May we blessed with compassion, connection and commitment- forward vision-eyes that see goodness, and hearts of fleshâ€¦ Chodesh Tov