Go To Yourselves
In the Torah Portion of Lech Lecha, Hashem tells Avraham “Lech Lecha. Go out, from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house. Go to the land that I will show you.”
So I was talking to Hannah about my sermon yesterday and she said “The parsha is Lech Lecha? Well, there aren’t too many people going out these days.”
That’s why we are going to talk about going deeper inside today, not going outside. Nathan of Breslov, was the principle disciple of Breslover Rebbe, Nachman. He said that another way to translate Lech Lecha, is “Go to yourself”. He then built further upon this by saying that to grow in our faith, we have to go deeper into ourselves, to find our true selves.
This feeds well into my personal theology that I wanted to share with you today. In the last few weeks I have had two different discussions on this topic and so it's been on my mind. Many in the Messianic movement have been heavily influenced by Evangelical Christianity. One of their hallmarks is a strong focus on discerning God’s will for themselves in life situations. Years ago I did the program in Ignatian Spirituality, which had a major focus on this subject. We studied and discussed this topic at length. Ignatius of Loyola lived in the early 1500s and was the founder of the Jesuit order. According to him, the way that you discern God’s will was to pay attention to your emotional states. If you are feeling compassionate, generous, hopeful, peaceful, etc… while thinking of one alternative this is an indication that this is God’s will. But if you are feeling angry, anxious, hateful, apathetic, depressed this is an indication that you are considering an option against God’s will. It’s a bit more complicated than that but it's not my focus this morning so I’ll leave it at that.
We read many case studies of people in discernment. If they were trying to decide to be a teacher or an accountant, what they discovered is that they just love teaching others and when they thought about that decision they were flooded with all of the good feelings of peace, joy, hope, and so forth. If they were trying to decide whether or not to take a higher paying job, they realized that they were really cut out to do the one that they had and was only thinking about the option because of society’s pressure to succeed and make more money.
It was in the midst of this that I had my epiphany. Story after story that we read, what people concluded as God’s will for them was what was most consistent with who they really were. I am convinced that God’s will is almost always, if not always, for us to be true to who we really are.
Rabbi Mark has discerned that God’s will is for him to be a scholar and teacher, because that is who he is. Roz made an excellent nurse because she deeply cares about people and wants to help them. Marie and Abby make art, because it is deep inside of them. And I feel a surge of joy and get great naches when I serve others in my capacity as rabbi.
The problem is that our culture and life experiences load us with expectations and distorted ideas that often keep us from connecting to that True Self. Our own sinfulness does this as well. This is what Nathan of Breslov taught. Hashem asked Avraham to “go out, from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house”. The land, says Rabbi Nathan, is akin to our desire for material possessions. The birthplace is equivalent to our physical cravings and desires. The father’s house corresponds to our craving for recognition and respect. These things get in our way from Lech Lecha, truly going to ourselves, uncovering our True Self. It’s like mining. We have to dig through the debris and the muck and the boulders to reach that precious gem down deep in our kishkes.
Maybe we can think of that gem deep within us as the Zohar, the stone of God’s brilliance referenced in so much of our literature. We radiate God’s light to the world when we uncover our zohar.
But it goes further than this. I believe that we can only experience full devekut, full connection with Hashem, when we are at that place. God’s power, love, and energy flows from deep down inside of us, not from the outside, as we usually think of it. It flows into that gem of our True Selves. It is impossible for us to be conduits of His blessing to others and to ourselves, if that path is stoppered with the junk of false expectations, defense mechanisms and sin.
Yeshua was the only one who was perfectly connected to his true self. He knew who he was in the Father. It is because of this that he was able to say to his parents “I must be about my Father’s business” from a young age. It was because of this that he was able to live a life of blessing, love, and acceptance of others. He was able to cast off the distorted perceptions of his culture that said sinners and tax collectors were unredeemable. He was able to reach out in love to the lepers and to forgive a woman caught in adultery. It also gave him the strength to face his death on behalf of the world.
Yeshua’s zohar was radiant and completely revealed. And thus he was able to say “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
May we be miners. Everyday working on clearing away the debris that keeps us from our precious gem.
May we discover God’s will for us by discovering who we truly are.
And thereby we will reveal our radiant zohar, giving light and life to ourselves and to all those around us.