We are part of this universe; we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts, is that the universe is in us. – Neil deGrasse Tyson
Such an elegant statement from a well renowned physicist regarding our place in the universe. His statement is not that different from one found in the Bible – that we are created in the image of God. Inside of us all is a piece of the Divine since we are all created according to His/Her likeness.
One deep question, as we enter this high holiday season, are we living up to the fact that inside of us is a piece of the divine? Before his death, Rabbi Zusya said: “In the coming world, they will not ask me: ‘Why were you not Moses?’ They will ask me: ‘Why were you not Zusya?” In other words, are we living up to the gifts that God has given us? Are we using the talents and passions that ignite our souls?
Zusya offers insight – you can only be you. You cannot be perfect, you cannot be a celebrity, you cannot even be Moses. Perfecting instead of perfection should be our ultimate goal. We love to focus on repairing the world outside of us, but another valuable question is, what about the world inside of us? Are we paying sufficient attention to our own faults and flaws so that we can become a more whole self. Or are we filling our heads with the noise of tweets and Facebook bings? Are we giving ourselves the space and quiet we need to develop the ability to grow into ourselves and thereby become more deeply connected to God. This is one of the major purposes of the high holiday season in our calendar.
There are ample examples in our tradition of people finding their passion at an older age, such as Rabbi Akiva (40) or Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus (older). For some of us, we could find our passion and live out our calling earlier in life. But for others to determine what that passion is requires time and reflection. We need to breathe deeply to allow ourselves to see the divine inside of us and ensure that our deeds reflect the intensity that inner spark.
Another way to honor our unique God-given gifts is to engage in the outside world and follow the prophetic call for social justice. When Abraham Joshua Heschel marched with Dr. Martin Luther King he famously said, “I felt like my legs were praying.” Engagement with our textual tradition is not relegated to the synagogue on Shabbat or adult education classes. Rather we are taught we must live out this commandment in our lives and in the world around us. To be made in the image of God, is to act that image out. In acting out that Divine image, we will feed the inner spark.
God commanded Abram to go forth from his native land. His native land was a place of deep comfort. To feed that inner spark, Abram had to move into something rather uncomfortable, scary, and unknown. To live out the image of God in our lives requires us to live the words of Zusya. We must be the best that we can be both in our inner lives and amongst each other in the outer world. Our actions must demonstrate the gratitude we have for the Divinely given gifts deep inside of us.
May you be blessed with a sweet, healthy and happy New Year! Shanah Tovah u’Metukah!