Please enjoy my recent final presentation from my Midrash class!
We spend so much of our lives running. Running from our fears, running from our failures, running from our responsibilities – running from issues from our past, even running from the potential heartache of the future. Have you ever noticed just how much there is to life that we don’t want to face? We want to live as morally rich people, who make good choices and do the right things, put on a good face, answer ‘oh i’m good’ when someone asks how we are, and find time to exercise, eat right, sleep well and look good all at the same time. We live in a sea of expectations – self prescribed and communally crafted. In reality, we’re not always great, we don’t have enough time in the day and there is some serious pain lurking from our past (present?) that we simply haven’t dealt with, don’t know how to deal with or have forgotten that it still needs to be taken care of. When were we supposed to take care of that again? This image of living a perfect life, in a perfect world has pervaded our modern society. Sure we know there is pain and suffering out there – but that’s out there. Over here, we are to put on a face and show the world what we think they want to see. It’s time to lift the veil and get real.
This is not a new thought. The image creating a perfect life of total goodness seems holy enough – yet even our rabbis of antiquity realized that paradise is not this world, perhaps that’s in a world to come – but this world is designed with pain, designed with suffering, designed with the dark and evil deep within its essence. After all, when God created light – God divide it into darkness – that was only the first day of creation.
At the completion of the 6th day, Elohim saw all that had been created and declared with amazement that it was extremely good. It would make sense for anyone reading this verse that God would be declaring extreme goodness on the Paradise before the Holy One. Yet, our Rabbis of the midrash would completely disagree. What’s good you might ask? Well, everything that this so-called paradise is not. The underworld, the evil inclination, suffering even – these things – the Rabbis say – is what God sees and calls very good. What?! How could the rabbis even suggest such a thing!? And what kind of God are talking about here? Surely this cannot be our God….my God…. but what if?
One rabbi says that the evil inclination – call it our ego – is the driving force behind all of our successes. The homes we build, the relationships we have, even the business we conduct; were it not for our evil desire, the rabbis believe, we would never achieve greatness in life. Think about it – when has jealousy moved you to make life changing choices? Weight loss? Relationships? Promotion? It’s incredible how much our day-to-day can be subconsciously filtered through the lens of selfish desire. For another Rabbi, the underworld – hell- is what is so good. As if at the end of our days- midah keneged midah – measure for measure – there will be retribution for our actions- the good and the bad. Call it karma, or cause and effect – no good deed goes unnoticed and no cruel act goes unpunished. But something still doesn’t sit right. Would our Blessed Creator really design a world with evil in its core? And what purpose does that fill?
I have a 6-year-old niece. She loves to play with her dolls and build them homes and shopping malls – cars out of old shoe boxes – plan parties for them and decides their bedtime and even chooses what attitude each doll should have. She is very involved. And the dolls are nothing but passive. Despite the fact that they can’t breathe, these dolls have no voice, no resistance, no agreement, not even a choice to whether or not they want to participate – they will participate – just as their master – my 6-year-old niece – decides.
But do you know what she longs for most? She would give anything for those dolls to talk back to her. She would go crazy if just one doll turned to her and asked for the blue skirt instead. But clearly, that will never happen – so imagination rules. Anything that these dolls say will only be from what she puts into their mouths. She controls their every move.
But what of us in this world? I find it really difficult to believe that God Almighty would create a world where Source controlled our tongues, planned our holiday vacations, painted our moods and manipulated our every action. Rather, God sought to create a world of engagement, where the beings could be involved on their own, making choices for themselves. I would even dare to say that God desires to have relationships with each and every single one of us. If God created the doll house like my niece, no relationships would ever take place, nor would we have the ability to showcase our love to God, or belief in Torah or passion to fulfill mitzvot. God would be too busy controlling our every move and we would be too passive to make choices. Hashem slipped darkness into the light of life so that we could have reason to grow, experiences to learn from, a reason to have faith and an opportunity to make change. How do we really know who we are? By how we handle life’s circumstances. If we keep running from our darkness, the light we aim for will always be dim. As we move forward in this weekend, may we each have the courage to stop running, dig deep and learn to embrace our darkness so fully that it actually becomes our light. Now that’s pretty good.