As synchronicity would have it I drove into work after writing yesterday’s post and what happened to me there turned out to be a perfect demonstration of what I had been writing about. Instead of starting at 10:00 as usual, class started at 12:00 meaning that there was no tutoring work for me to do until then and I was told that I could go home if I wanted to. What better way could there be for reality to bring to my awareness the meaning of commitment! I was forced to admit that my commitment to this job was only on the level of obedience. It was not an enthusiastic resounding “I’ll stay here anyway even if I don’t have to!” It’s a very good job and no matter what it entails, because it’s Torah learning I’m happy, but I can’t throw myself wholly into it because what they are learning is not exactly what I would choose to learn or how I would choose to learn it, given a choice.
On the other hand I wasn’t ready to go home just yet because I didn’t want to go into a Beit Midrash (study hall) and leave it without having studied anything. So before going home I opened up a book. And as synchronicity had it yet again the content of what I learned was very much related to what I had just now experienced.
The book was the Shem Mishmuel, by the Sochatchover Rebbe. I opened up to an explanation of the verse in Genesis Ch. 2 verse 2 “On the seventh day God finished the work that He had been doing, and He ceased on the seventh day from all the work that He had done.”
A basic question on this verse is the following: It doesn’t say that God finished His work and then the Sabbath came along. It says that God finished His work on the seventh day. If the Sabbath is supposed to be God’s way of modeling for man a day of rest how could God have finished on the Sabbath day itself? Wouldn’t that mean that God was working on the seventh day as opposed to finishing before the seventh day?
The author answers the question by saying God created an ontological reality on the seventh day that was different from the six days that preceded it. During the six days of creation, after forming and fashioning all of creation God also implanted within creation a desire for independence. The created world has a built-in mechanism for differentiation and separateness from God. Things grow, generate and take on a life of their own, extending downwards so to speak into material existence. This comprises the world’s sense of having existence independently of God.
On the seventh day a different desire was implanted into the world’s consciousness. On that day God implanted a longing for connection to God.
“Work” in the verse is interpreted by Shem Mishmuel to mean “the created world” and “ceased” is interpreted to mean “infused with longing.” Thus, the original problem is resolved. God did not “create” anything tangible on the seventh day. God created the desire and longing on the part of creation to connect and unite with its Creator.
This beautiful idea relates back to what I wrote about the consciousness of separateness from God and consciousness of connection and closeness to God. With this new insight about the seventh day we can take the meaning a step further.
A person has a desire for individuation. This is fine and healthy. It’s built into creation. The only danger is when it turns to arrogance, when man starts to think there is no God and that he exists separately and independently of God and doesn’t need God at all and is not accountable for his actions. This separateness and distance can also be felt as fear. “I am all on my own and it’s all up to me…Do you mean to say it’s all up to me??” This is a different kind of arrogance in the guise of humility.
Instead we need to creatively do the work and the unique tasks we’ve been given to do as if it is all up to us, knowing God is there helping us, knowing that behind the scenes we really are not alone and also knowing that what we do matters, which leads us to act with conscience and responsibility. So yes, it’s all up to me. This is the meaning of responsibility. But the results are not up to me.
On the other hand a person has a desire for connection. This is the outward reach of what Frankl calls the will to meaning. On the seventh day, when the work stops and we’re not busy with a million and one things we are physically, emotionally and spiritually available to connect to God, to people and to our own inner spirit.