26 January 2010


The fifth of 19 brief meditations on the 19 blessings of the Amidah.


Bring us back, our father, to your Torah; draw us near, our Sovereign, to your service; and cause us to return to you in perfect repentance. Blessed are you, Eternal, who desires repentance.

After understanding our connection to God through the Ancestors, as a Source of Life and Death, and as the Source of Uniqueness in the universe, the language shifts in the fourth blessing to God as Teacher and now here in the fifth blessing to God as Parent. The rhyming words, "hashiveinu avinu," (cause us to return to your Torah, our father) sounds mildly awkward in English but has a concise sound and meaning in the Hebrew that is the essence of this blessing.

The ethical and the moral foundations of Torah is the place to which we continually return to organize our existence. And the intent of God in relationship with us in the world is to set into motion that dynamic--that through our knowledge we are cognizant of the foundational reality of life, a moral and ethical law, to which we continually return to day after day after day.

We are reminded, in the call to daily return, of our fallibility. Of our humbling imperfection. But rather than be chided we are encouraged, as a parent loves a child, to try again and again. To start over from where we left off. But to do so with the understanding that the beginning, the return to the base of what we know, happens every day.

It's a call to moral mindfulness. Think of it this way: every time you ride a bike, it's an opportunity to be reminded of the application of knowledge and laws of gravity to the joy of moving through space and time on wheels. Every time you read a book, it's an opportunity to be reminded of the application of knowledge and the rules of grammar and language to the unmitigated joy of the Idea. And every time your heart cries out in pain for human suffering, it's an opportunity to be reminded of the application of the knowledge and yes, the obligation, to care for others with compassion and lovingkindness.

This level of daily mindfulness insists upon the rule that there is a Rule. That there is a Structure. Or, as the Midrash imagines, an Architectural Plan for Existence. And this Plan, or Map, is a way back, each day, to the moral and ethical center of life.

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