(Continued. Happy 300th post to me!)
(Also: I've spent the last week frustrated by my lack of writing time--too much work, too many posts half-started and interrupted by sleep. Then this evening I read Pirkei Avot 2:21: "It is not your duty to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it." I am grateful to Rabbi Tarfon for this encouraging reminder.)
We ended the class with a selection from Adam's Return by Richard Rohr, a Franciscan brother. He writes:
"All transformation takes place in liminal space... It is that graced time when we are not certain or in control, when something genuinely new can happen. We are empty, receptive, an erased tablet waiting for new words... Much of the work of the biblical God and human destiny itself is to get people into liminal space and to keep them there long enough to learn something essential and new. It is the ultimate teachable space [author's italics]..."
Those times, observed the rabbi, are when we're most likely to have the experiences we call revelation, moments that change our perception of ourselves in this world. They happen when we step or are pushed between paths and fall into the twilight zones of despair, loss, confusion. We resist these states; we hate discomfort, houses of mourning, encounters with the homeless. Can't we see God in the fullness of beauty and joy? Yes, but perhaps not as clearly as in their emptiness. You can find the path only when you step off it. An empowering idea: revelation is not always a random miracle, and we can hasten the widening of our own vision.
I understood. At the retreat in 1999, I was in a new place with new people, completely unsure of my footing. And every single time I chant Torah, I doubt my abilities and engage in exhausting, irrational mental gymnastics. Then I step up to the bimah and start to sing, and am flooded with the goodness that I forgot to notice was all around me. (But I don't want to rely on nervousness as a bridge to God. I like to think He'll enjoy my calmer state, as well, once I figure out how to get there.)
Recognizing these moments is only half the challenge; acting upon them is the far greater task.