Saturday, August 22, 2009

What's Luke Got to Do With Tikkun Olam?

In this beautiful painting by David Friedman, three levels of soul are displayed. The bottom level is "nefesh," the mortal or animal soul. Next up, "ruach," spirit or breath of life. Finally, "neshama," or higher soul, sometimes said to be the extra soul that joins with us on the Sabbath.

Remember me mentioning a blog named "Luke 10:27"? I noted that, being Jewish, I was unfamiliar with the content of that New Testament passage. Well, it's been bugging me, so here it is:

Luke 10:27

27 He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'[a]; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'[b]"

Luke 10:27 Deut. 6:5
Luke 10:27 Lev. 19:18

So it turns out that Luke 10:27 contains two quotes from the Old Testament (aka, the Torah to Jews), something I do know rather well. The first quote, from Deuteronomy 6:5, is part of a larger and very central section of Jewish litergy called the Ve'ahavta, which means "and you shall love."

Deut 6:5

"5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might..."

It's not my intent to get preachy, religious or anything weird on this blog, but this selection coincidentally has been most inspirational to me as a Jew taking seriously my responsibility for tikkun olam, the Jewish concept of healing the world - of which my environmentalist bent is a part. As long as the passage has made an unexpected appearance on my blog, I guess I want to explain the connection. As a whole, Deuteronomy 6 contains instructions for loving God. But I find value in extrapolating that to loving all that God created and stands for. So, if something seems like it fits this category, I apply these instructions. In a nutshell, the instructions call for us to pursue this love with every talent and capacity available to us - a life rule I try to live by (to the occasional annoyance, I'm sure, of friends and family). Here is the key portion of Deut. 6:

"5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be upon thy heart; 7 and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. 8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be for frontlets between thine eyes. 9 And thou shalt write them upon the door-posts of thy house, and upon thy gates."

I love the idea that, when a cause is good in God's sight - or if you don't do God, then what's good for the Planet, the force, the infinite all-soul, or whatever your personal conception of a higher power - we need to keep the cause front and center. Maybe a cause like cleaning the air we breathe and the water we all rely upon - yes? Think of the change we could make if we could keep the cause firmly in our hearts as a passion. If we could impress the importance and holiness of the cause upon our children, caretakers of the future. If we allowed ourselves to talk about the cause to the guests around our dinner table. I don't mean bludgeon guests to death, but to be honest about these values. And to the people we meet as we go about our business. What creative innovations could we imagine if we strategized upon these causes in the quiet of the night, and with the renewed energy of the morning?

And what does it mean to bind them as a sign upon our hand and as a frontlet before our eyes? To me, that means the acts of our hands should carry out these holy goals, and that our eyes should be ever on the end game.

And to write them upon the doorposts of our house, and upon our gates? Today, to me this means....

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