Look for loving wisdom and you will find peace


Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11

Isaiah 40:1-26


Spirit of anger, bless the Lord.

Long lasting depression, bless the Lord.

Givings in to sadness, bless the Lord.

Superego, bless the Lord.

Little self-known very late, bless the Lord.

Unlovely self-image, bless the Lord.

Fixations of the intellect, bless the Lord.

Emergencies of the will, bless the Lord.

Restrictions of the heart, bless the Lord.

The constant critic within, bless the Lord.

Supposed judgments from without, bless the Lord.

Irrational fear, bless the Lord.

Blind spots of self-pity, bless the Lord.

Deep-seated feelings of guilt, bless the Lord.

Unexplainable bodily pains, bless the Lord.

Questioning of inner vision, bless the Lord.

Erratic growth, bless the Lord.

The unnecessary suffering of ignorance, bless the Lord.

All you varieties of pessimism, bless the Lord.

All you types of confusion, bless the Lord.

All you causes of tension, bless the Lord.

All you forms of insecurity, bless the Lord.

All you passions of the mind, bless the Lord.

Praise God, Glorify God.

Bless God's holy name.

On a spiritual retreat recently, this anonymous prayer was read by one of the retreat leaders. She began in a tone of reverence, but the group of participants soon erupted in riotous laughter. All of us were familiar with Biblical psalms, written in just this style, that call upon heaven and earth and all of creation to join in a chorus of praise to the Holy One.

All of us also recognized all too clearly the difficult states of mind described in this wacky psalm of praise. The suggestion that we invite these pesky thoughts and feelings, like the mountains and seas, to praise the Creator, was so paradoxical that we laughed. We were tickled by the extraordinary suggestion that all of these painful states of mind, like all wonders of creation, are themselves aspects of the Divine Oneness.

This remarkable suggestion closely mirrors an essential strand in Chassidic theology, reflected in the following magnificent piece of commentary on the Ve'ahavta, whose biblical source is in this work's parashah:

"You shall love Adonai your God" (Deuteronomy 6:5.) This means one should want nothing but God.

"With all your soul" — with every single soul-breath that God has created in you. And the meaning of b'chol levavecha is not "with all your heart," as most people interpret it. But rather, we need to become aware that each feeling we have is only the life force that comes from God. This is the meaning of God is one. It goes beyond the fact that there is just one God; there is God and nothing else. Everything that exists is only God's blessed life, but it is hidden. The same is true of God's blessed will. Therefore, the love of God has to be in every feeling we have. This is "all your heart" ("The Language of Truth," translated and interpreted by Arthur Green, pages 289-90).

The language of this teaching is deceptively simple, but its underlying theology and its wisdom for our lives are stunning. Let us examine it, phrase by phrase.

Ve'ahavta (you shall love): You shall love Adonai your God. Not only should you feel love for the Divine, for the Mystery that created us and the wonder that surrounds us. Rather, you must recognize that everything around us and within us is God; when it appears otherwise, it means that the divine essence is simply hidden from view. Recognizing and living out this truth is the very heart of life.

B'chol levavecha (with all your heart): Since all is from God, the same is true of all the contents of the heart — the feelings we love in ourselves and others, the feelings and inclinations that cause us pain. All is somehow evidence of Divine Presence — both the thoughts, emotions and impulses that in and of themselves bring good to the world, and those states of mind that are waiting to be transformed, to be returned to their original holiness.

HaShem echad (God is one): This is the essential meaning of the words "God is one": God is in everything — in every person, every moment, everything. There is nothing separate from God, nothing devoid of the Divine Presence. Knowing that this is true, we can never be alone, never far from divine guidance, if only we can turn our hearts in this direction.

This Shabbat, may we catch a glimpse of the Holy Mystery, and at least for a moment, turn our hearts toward the One.

Rabbi Amy Eilberg
Rabbi Amy Eilberg

Rabbi Amy Eilberg serves as a spiritual director, peace educator and justice activist, and teacher of Mussar. More information on her work can be found at rabbiamyeilberg.com.