Friday, June 4, 2010

Maintaining Eye Contact

Here's something to take with you into Shabbos (and keep with you all the time).

The Tur (a 13th/14th century codification of halacha authored by Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher [Rabbi Asher is also known as the RO"Sh, a foremost commentator on the Talmud]) discusses in The Laws of Daily Living article125 the prescribed method of action during the recitation of the kedusha (the main responsive element between the Shaliach Tzibbur and the minyan during the repetition of Shemoneh Esrei). While those of sephardic descent keep their eyes cast downward, the ashkenazic Jews - as well as the French Jews - keep their eyes lifted to the heavens, and raise up on their toes with each pronunciation of "kadosh, kadosh, kadosh..." ("holy, holy, holy"). The Tur seems to rule that it is better to do like the ashkenaz community, and explains:
The Sefer Heichalot says: God says "blessed are you...if you tell My children what I do when they are sanctifying (i.e. saying the kedusha) and saying 'kadosh, kadosh, kadosh', and you teach them that their eyes should be directed upward towards heaven, and they should lift themselves up. I have no pleasure in the world like the time that theirs eyes are gazing into Mine, and My eyes are looking into theirs."
I originally saw this quoted in Chovat HaTalmidim, where the holy Piaseczner is encouraging us to feel HaShem's presence during prayer, and gives practical advice couched in guided imagery to help. Two days ago I found it in the Tur itself, and like before, I was struck by the beauty of the idea, and deeply moved.

I realize that some people are more emotive than others, and have an easier time expressing themselves. I have also noticed that a lot of people squirm when the conversation turns to talking about God and His relationship with us. Maybe for some, it is the inability to appear vulnerable, while others believe that such emotional matters are better left in the realm of privacy and tzniut. I respect those positions - even though I don't really understand them - but I do believe that everyone needs to recognize how much HaShem loves us.

In a fundamental halachic work - one that is considered a predecessor to the Shulchan Aruch - there are absolute rulings based on the principle of God's love as it manifests in our realm. We cannot separate the two!

To me, that seems to be a powerful indication of how we need to relate to that knowledge. It has to inform our every action, and it should be reviewed over an over: the immutable fact that God loves us, His love is infinite and boundless. Everyone can believe this, and internalize it, and it doesn't have to be in a public forum. Go look it up, think about this FACT, and have a private moment reveling in the knowledge that HaShem loves us so much, the 'highlight' of His day (as it were) is when we step on our tippy-toes and try to look into His eyes...

Have a wonderful Shabbos!

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