08 February 2011

Triumph In a Bank of Clouds

"And you will command the children of Israel, that they take you pure olive oil beaten for the light, to light the lamp always."  (Exodus 27.20)

Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sasov (1745-1807) says, "Only after a person has beaten and suppressed his Evil inclination can he enjoy the light of the Divine Presence."  Beaten for the Light.

Here we see Judaism as a system of discipline and practice.  Of a willingness to confront ourselves and even our demons--our worst manifestations--over and over again.  To uncover them.  To face them.  And then to literally beat them, wrestle them to the ground.  To prevail.

This requires not only an extraordinary amount of hard-work and inspiration but also patience in your execution of what it is to be a Jew and human being.

My Evil Inclination at times feels very great, unwieldy, difficult to tame.  I have been engaged with a bitter struggle with one aspect of it recently and I feel like I broke one of its limbs.  He--the Evil Inclination--is currently on the sidelines, nursing his own injury, sure to return to battle.  I hope to be ready for him again.

But as I was appreciating the triumph of this small internal battle, I looked up at the sky as I crossed West End Avenue recently and saw a bank of clouds hanging over the buildings and roads with a clarity I haven't noticed in quite some time.  It's beauty was uncommon--as if it turned out that a Magritte was realistic, a true representation of what we see. 

This small victory opened a window and the view was a relief.  Light passed through the clouds.  The blue sky was radiant.  I stood there, battered yet still standing. 

Beaten for the light.