A cosmic Jewish perspective is out of this world
The Jews have always been wanderers, engaged in a sacred journey in search of the Promised Land. On Shabbat, we journey together, across vistas of space and time, back to the beginning. It is not only the journey of the Jewish people, but the journey of humanity and of all living things on spaceship Earth that we recall on Shabbat.
On Shabbat, we celebrate the birth of the universe, of Earth and of all living things, as we remember that my journey is linked with your journey, and the journey of the Jews, is linked with the journey of all people, and the journey of humanity is inextricably linked with the journey of all living things, with whom we share this planet.
The road has often been bumpy and filled with dangerous twists and curves, but our ancestors left us a vision of not only what was, and is, but of what could be if we view other nations not as rivals, but as fellow travelers on this pale, blue dot, we call Earth, or in Hebrew, Ha-Aretz. Ideologies stuck in the tribal perspective of viewing their religion or nation as the chosen of God and the sole repository of all truth, tend to spread conflict and violence. Since their path is illogical, they become “pathological”. Rational Judaism leads us from the tribal to the global, and provides a cosmic perspective that is out of this world.
So let us journey together this Shabbat back to the beginning of time and space when Creation was new. Both science and religion tell us that all began as one, science in the form of a singularity, followed by the big bang, and one form of life diversifying into all others, and religion teaching that all emerged from a single creative power. Although the Torah got the time frame a little off, confusing a 6000 year old universe and Earth with a cosmos that is actually closer to 14 billion years old, and was a bit confused on some of the details of creation, our ancestors accurately taught that everything around us comes from one source and that all humans are kin. Now that we know the true story of human evolution and the emergence of all life on Earth, we are filled with even more awe, more wonder, and more exultation in the majesty of life on Earth.
On Shabbat, we rejoice over Creation and seek to recapture this original unity in our lives with music, fellowship, sacred symbols and common aspirations, that some call prayer, which is really just a “thank-you” to the creative power that formed each of us and all living things. To fully express this gratitude for our lives on Shabbat, we seek to take the greatest journey of all, not only back to the creation of the cosmos, but back to our own beginnings, when we were pure and free of the corrupting influences that surround us, as we seek to recapture our innate goodness and love. We also seek that great spiritual journey of going from the person we are today, to the person we could be tomorrow, if we lived up to our highest potential. Each of us has a role to play in the mission of the Jewish people, to convert the vision of our prophets and the dreams of our people into the reality where love, justice and mercy prevail in the world. To be as effective as we can in this sacred mission, we seek to live up to the high standards of established by sages and prophets that make our lives sacred.
The original unity of all life and of creation, has been reflected and proclaimed since our beginning with the Shema, the watchword of the Jewish faith, found on the lips of martyrs with their last dying breath, and the core of the Shabbat celebration. And why are these 6 words so important? Because the Shema and its focus on unity, has guided and inspired our people with a dream that all living things on earth will one day live as one, and where we will be united with our unique core that links us with all others, yet also makes us unique, that some call the soul. Let us seek to connect with this sacred source of life and creative power within us, in order to rescue our true identity from the self-imposed identity theft that causes us to identify with the persona or facades that we often erect in dealing with the outside world, that shields us from our true self, which was destined to be a blessing to this world.
So let us join our fellow travelers on Spaceship Earth, as we pay homage each Shabbat to our common striving for the sacred in our lives. And let us travel on a pilgrimage of transcendence beyond the self, as we link our lives to the lofty ideals of our people and with the cosmos, of which we are a part.
As Marcel Proust said “The greatest voyage of all is not to see new lands, but to see with new eyes.” On Shabbat we seek new eyes to overcome the tribal, and progress to a cosmic perspective, as well as a comic perspective, in which we no longer take ourselves too seriously, or the sole reason for Creation, but part of an interconnected universe, fashioned by a creative process and power that some call God.
The purpose of Shabbat and of religion itself, is to open our eyes to the world as it really is. Our minds play a trick on us. The more often we see things, even if beautiful and wondrous, the more they become invisible to us. Thus, we often take for granted the beauty of this world like flowers, the trees, the birds, nature and even those we love. Because we see things so often, we see them less and less.
That great scientist and philosopher, Albert Einstein, said “We can see the universe as if everything is a miracle, or nothing is a miracle.” Science and cosmic religion provide us new lenses which enhance our vision and reveal the startling fact that everything is a miracle, including us.
As we embark on the journey of Shabbat and spirituality together, let us strive for the day dreamed of by our people throughout the ages, when the new eyes provided by our prophets, will imbue all humanity with a vision of a harmonious and interconnected world. Let us transcend denominational barriers that too often divide our people, and take this journey together and a shared cosmic perspective, in order to fulfill our people’s mission to serve as a light to the nations, offering hope and a vision of peace for all the world.