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Entries in Spirituality (1)


The Bearable Lightness of Being

Midrash Tanhuma on Ki Tisa:

Since he came down and approached the camp and saw the calf, the written letters flew away from them and were found to be heavy on Moshe's hands, immediately (Exodus 32:18) "And Moshe's anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hand"

Interesting. A bunch of letters chiseled into the stone allowed Moshe to be able to carry these huge stone tablets . In their absence, the tablets just became lumps of stone and Moshe dropped them (the Midrash changes our understanding of the verse that Moshe flung them down in anger; but see discussion here)

I see this Midrash as a metaphor for life. The tablets are our lives, with all of their challenges and burdens. The letters, our spiritual life - Torah learning, awareness and mindfulness, prayer and service of G-d. If we invest in keeping those letters nice and sharp, they can carry our lives for us and we can feel light and clear at every moment. If we let them drop and fade, whether out of laziness, anger or pain, we risk life becoming a heavy burden to schlep around. That's been my experience, anyway.

It reminds me of the Hassidic tale of the man who hitched a ride on a wagon. The man sat there with a huge bag on his knees. The driver said: "Why don't you put your bag down on the floor?" The hitchhiker replied: "You've been kind enough to take me, I don't need you to take my bag as well."

I think we can drop our bags - our baggage - and trust that if G-d can carry everything else, G-d can carry our bags for us too. We're not being helpful when we schlep all that stuff around, just foolish.

Thus, too, the ark was said to "carry its bearers" rather than the expected, that the bearers carried it.

So our job is to invest in our spiritual lives, and then they will carry us, G-d will carry us, our baggage, and all those things that currently feel so heavy. We have "wings of spirit", as Rav kook writes, and with them we can soar.