Beliefnet

The Jewish path, the Jewish way of walking through life (halacha), is a path of healing. Tikkun olam, the repair of the world, is a macrocosm of the tikkun atzmi, the inner process of healing. Healing, by definition, is the attempt to bring balance to both the inner and external healing processes, and Jewish tradition offers guidance to achieve this balance. This guidance towards balance is expressed through biblical metaphors, through daily prayers, and through the Jewish approach to the mystery of life. To help us on this path to constant repair, the Jewish tradition offers three different models - the biblical, the mystical, and the liturgical.

In the biblical model, we see ourselves and our travel along our given path through the analogy of the stories of our people. Each intensely personal struggle mirrors the documented national struggle. With God's help, we transformed ourselves from a tribe of slaves into free beings. Every biblical hero is not only a role model for each Jew, but is easily identifiable as a human, marked by flaws and failures, each hero striving for human transformation.

This biblical model of redemption offers optimism and the implication that we are not necessarily doomed to repeat the same stories over and over, but that we have the power to change our circumstances and individual worldview. We can redeem the best in ourselves, the divine center, which transcends our mundane pettiness, and in so doing, we can achieve transformation.

Judaism offers a mystical model toward redemption and transcendence in the literature of Kabbalah. Kabbalah can be interpreted to mean "to receive," and is a path of study and observance for coherently understanding our relationship with the universe. We, as part of the whole, have an effect on the universe. The constant repairing of the world is our way of being partners with God. The mystical understanding of reality dwells in the interstices of our lives, and raises our consciousness beyond the level of the pschat, the simple understanding of reality, which is beyond the drash, the interpretive understanding of reality.

Modern psychology many times dwells in the domain of the drash as it attempts to gain insight from a rationalistic approach to the meaning of our emotions in order to achieve change. The mystical approach puts us in perspective with respect to a higher plan in which we are simply actors with some choices. The journey of the ego - the here and now, the immediate reality - is not important to the Kabbalistic approach. We are much more than our own story. Life and death are not defined by biology alone. It is the constant search for meaning, and our identification as divine creatures who are part of divine Creation, that will lead us to cleave to God and to experience individual attachment to the Divine.

The liturgical path toward healing was explored by Samson Raphael Hirsch in his book Horeb: A Philosophy of Jewish Laws and Observances in which he comments that the observance of Jewish holidays, appointed days which stand out in the calendar from all others, can be likened to moadim. Mo-ed is ordinarily defined as a festival. However, the earliest roots of the word refer to those places in the desert where the Tabernacle was set, and later referred to a designated locality for an assembly with a given purpose. Consequently, the word moadim can simultaneously incorporate a holy time and a sacred place, allowing us to view our passage through the periodic Holy Days of the calendar as a journey through "tents" in time. When in these tents, we are summoned to a place outside the ordinary schedule to a place where the mundane halts and where we dedicate ourselves to assigned spiritual activities.

The moadim, as we travel with them, effect healing. Ohel mo-ed was the tent of the meeting, the place chosen by God to meet God's people. These structures in time are God's periodic invitations to the tents through the year, elevating our consciousness individually, intellectually, spiritually and communally with our fellow Jews for select purposes. The orbits of yearly festivals are cycles of healing, and the tents are the entry points for accessing the process of healing.

These perspectives are what the Jewish tradition gives us to heal ourselves, regardless of whether the need to heal derives from internal, interpersonal, or communal brokenness. Here is where the real mending of the world begins - out of the inner circle of bearing witness to the devastation produced by brokenness, love and generosity become a must, a commitment to act.

Healing is not a philosophically abstract concept. It is the constant struggle to keep balance, to juggle with the tensions of life. Healing is the counterbalance to the forces that pull us apart at any given moment in our lives. When we give attention to the need for healing, we become God's witnesses of pain and suffering, and also to the possibilities for joy. The uniquely Jewish paths toward healing - the biblical, the mystical, and the liturgical - offer possibilities for each Jew to heal his or her personal history, relationship with the self and with others, and to create a Jewish identity based on understanding.

The "path toward healing" can be followed through examination and personalized analysis of our classical and traditional heroes and their struggles, through examination of the Jewish mind and its yearning for wholeness and cleaving to God, and by accepting the invitations into the tents in time, in joining the orbit of and to the One.

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