21 April 2010

Omer 22: Eye, Ear, Book

Omer Day Twenty-Two

"Know what is above you--a seeing eye, a listening ear, and all your deeds are written in a book."

Rabbi Yehuda Ha Nasi is credited with this statement in Pirke Avot, as concise a view of one's reality of God as I could ever convey. In psychological terms, I guess one might say that this is a definition of God as "conscience," and on a certain level that would be true except for the "written in a book" part. Unless we want to talk about a Freudian notepad, in which case we will have hit the trifecta.

But the book here is the metaphoric idea that there is a record of our deeds, that despite our best efforts to erase the tracks of our deceits, there remains, somewhere, evidence of all we have done. This is a powerful idea, terrifying really, and one which these days is manifest in people's concern for the trail of information they leave for themselves online: passwords, postings, numbers of identification and the like. So we do concern ourselves with the recorded legacy of our accounting but it's mostly related to protecting personal information and protecting our finance from the wolves and jackals of bright-screened universe.

But the Sages notion of a seeing eye and a hearing ear was not an idea based on deceit; rather, their image here is one of exposure, leaving us out in the open wherever we are, even when we are hidden or hiding ourselves *from* ourselves.

As an idea of God, I find this rather comforting. While I sometimes struggle with issues of personal privacy, even in such moments where I bristle at my own exposure as a public person, I hear the voice of God questioning my reactions. And after a momentary battle (Gene Wilder in "Young Frankenstein" comes to mind--"Destiny! Destiny! No escaping that for me!") submit to the rule of Eternal time that marks my progress, moment by moment, as a being conscious of his soul's status.

This can be a function of Omer counting as well. We ordinarily think of the Ten Days of Repentance in the Fall as an exclusive time for marking our soul accounting but the 49 days provide another, perhaps more subtle and steady experience of taking stock progressively over time. Over 49 days one feels the pressing weight of scrutiny, desires rebellion against it, but then relents to its attentive observation.

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