Giving and Receiving Meaning

In the post “The Realness of the Intangible” I shared a meaningful teaching my study partner and myself learned from Alei Shur. Today I want to share our continued learning.

Until now we learned that the world was created at a particular point in time and that the ten commandments were revealed as a “user-manual” for creation at a particular point in time. Yet this revelation is not limited to a particular point in time but is continuous.

Today we learned that a) revelation begins with potential which subsequently unfolds and b) there is a parallel process going on between creation of matter and the revelation of the user-manual.

On the first day of creation matter was created, a “something” from “nothing.” At that point on everything was created from this original substance. We can say that whatever creativity unfolds was there in a potential state from the beginning. At the beginning, potential was created.

The same holds true for the “user-manual.” Whatever creative process unfolds in our understanding of the ten commandments was in a sense always there, present from the start. The law was given together with its hidden potential. This is the context in which we who uphold rabbinic Judaism view the rabbinic debates and their unending clarifications.

My friend commented how apropos it was that we were studying this on Holocaust Remembrance Day, when entire communities with their chain of tradition of grandparents, handing down to their children and their children to their children were wiped out.

Then the book makes a surprise (to us) move and says that although the creative process of creation continues and the creative process of Torah, the “user-manual” for creation continues, something about it is not a potential being developed but rather a continuous renewal of the original creation.

The gift of potential was given long ago. If I think about a child’s potential, I think of a talent that was inherently there but once the talent was given that’s the end of the gift. Now it’s all up to the receiver of the talent to work and develop the talent.

Here we’re saying something different. The unfolding creation and revelation of how to use creation existed in a potential state from the first moment. But this creation of potential was not the end of it. The One who gave life continues to renew life. The potential for material substance to renew itself was an intrinsic part of creation, but the enlivening of this material substance is an ongoing creation. In our prayer we say, G-d renews every day the work of creation. The Creator of old continues to give us new life at each and every moment. Similarly there is an ongoing spiritual enlivenment in the wisdom of the law and how to live our lives.

And then the book adds something still more surprising to us: There are two different types of potential. There was creation of heaven (and the potential for creating heaven) and there was creation of earth (and the potential for creating earth).

Exactly what this means was not so clear to us but he goes on: The parallel of these two kinds of potential in creation extends to the presence of two different kinds of potential present in the revelation at Sinai.

One kind of potential is the potential for continuous renewal in the ongoing deeper understandings of God’s will, attributes and leadership. The other kind of potential is the potential for receptivity to what will be revealed through those who study the law in every generation, in every condition of life. This is the source for our faith in tradition.

We have gotten so far removed from this consciousness after the Holocaust. There is a rigidity of clinging to whatever is written in a book and we’ve forgotten that what is written in a book was written down only so as not to forget what was spoken orally. As my friend Rivkah put it “Making that place in your self to receive is what makes it possible for renewal to come through you.”

This is one of those posts that are here because I am sharing my meaning, not because of logotherapy. Yet it always comes back to logotherapy when what is sought is meaning. What is being discussed is giving and receiving meaning. I feel a great discomfort whenever I participate in a discussion that is purely critical and analytical in nature. A quality of receptivity is missing from the discussion. It is only through the giving and receiving together, as in the continuous revelation and receptivity to God’s word or as in the midrashic metaphor of rain coming down and the earth receiving it or of male and female bonding, that something fruitful comes forth and there is birth.

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2 Responses to Giving and Receiving Meaning

  1. Sara says:

    Thanks so much, I found this post very enlightening.

    BTW, I think it has a lot to do with logotherapy. How can something be meaningful to us if we are lacking either the ability to take in (receive) or the ability to share (renew through giving it over to others via our own ‘filter’). And of course, the processing bridges the two (perhaps the latter being a culmination via the output/sharing). I guess in any given situation we could ask — is my potential here to renew or is it to receive?

  2. logogroup says:

    Thanks for the framing of giving and renewal as ‘sharing’ – as you put it, giving it over via our own ‘filter.’ So you’ve enlightened me as well. I imagine there’s always a dynamic flow of sharing and taking in, in any given situation. There’s no need to decide on only one or the other.

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