Parashah (portion) Re’eh – Letting Go of All Truths
Deuteronomy 11:26 – 16:17
How do I invite God into my life? How do I fill my life with the Divine Presence moment to moment? These are the questions many of us on the spiritual path ask ourselves. And more often than not, the answer comes back, simple and disarming: make room for it. For many of us, however, such a pithy answer is not sufficient. The mind wants to know “how” we are to make room for Spirit in our lives. Though we might not like what it says, this week’s Torah portion offers us a pathway to follow:
These are the laws and rules that you need to observe and practice in the land that the Eternal… is giving you to possess… You must destroy all the places at which the nations… worshiped their gods… tear down their altars, smash their pillars, put their sacred posts to the fire, and cut down the images of their gods, obliterating their name from that place… look only to the place where the Eternal your God shall choose… to place His name. Seek out His dwelling. There you are to go. [Deut.12:1-5]
Looking past the literal interpretation of the text, at a deeper level these words refer to an inner process. They represent spiritual guidance to help us reach “the land” of enlightenment. “The nations,” then, stand for the conditioned self–the ego–that prevents me from knowing that I am already in “the land,” and the passage is giving us tools to go beyond the little self. Torah calls us, here, to identify what keeps us entranced with the mesmerizing show we call “life,” that our conditioned self puts in front of our eyes moment to moment. The show itself is not the problem; it is just what is. Our ideas about the show that we elevate to quasi-sacredness are the problem: the truths we “own” that we are unwilling to budge from, for example; a rigid way of being that–we insist–is just who we are; a worldview we hold that we have decreed is unalterable. These are our pillars, our sacred posts and our idols. They keep us stuck, closed off, collapsed into our own stories, adrift in the noise of the never-ending chatter of our own mind. When we lose ourselves in the clamoring of the little “i,” the stories of the “me,” or the battles of the “mine,” we come to find that–in the pantheon of our self–there isn’t any room left for God.
But the Torah is showing us a pathway to trance-end. This pathway is a life-time process of letting go. Recognizing our attachments is just the first critical step. With this recognition, we transform attachments into objects simply arising in our awareness. By merely being able to look at our attachments, we dis-identify from them, and they naturally release their grip on us. As we evolve and grow, we are more and more able to let go of all our sacred cows–or our golden calves, to use the biblical image. We become involved in an unfolding process of further and further questioning our assumptions, doubting our certainties. We are able to let go of all those truths we hold to be self-evident. We see the limitations of our mind. Hitbonenut, Jewish Insight Meditation, is a powerful platform to facilitate this kind of process. It is a vehicle to support us in this ongoing practice of recognizing and questioning, becoming aware and letting go. As who we think we are becomes increasingly fluid, the clouds in our awareness begin to dissipate and a clearing appears within us. This inner space is where “God chooses… to place His name,” where God always already dwells. “There” as the Torah says, “you are to go.”
© 2011 Rabbi Olivier BenHaim, All rights reserved.