Rabbi Booth Yom Kippur 2014

Being in the God Zone in memory of Hannah Yuster z”l

My son has an idea he calls “redactive reality.” Essentially, it means asserting something you would LIKE to be true so as to CAUSE it to be true. The method is surprisingly effective. The Prayer Book does this all the time. We emphasize that God is patient and filled with love. 9 times over Yom Kippur we recite God’s 13 attributes of mercy. Never do we talk of God’s anger, or quickness to punish. We imagine a God who patient, forgiving, and loving. Ready to accept us with all our flaws and faults.

In that act of imagination, we are also setting up an aspiration of what we could be. The Mahzor imagines the best of what could be and we aspire to get there. The sifrei teaches the following:

Follow Adonai your God – what does this mean? It is possible for a mortal to follow God? Rather, we should follow God’s attributes. Just as God clothes the naked, so should we. Just as God visits the sick and comforts the mourner, so should we.

Maimonides worried about this text. He wanted us to refrain from thinking of God in human terms. My friend and teacher Shai Held points out that this worry of God becoming overly human is misplaced. We say that God cares for every widow, ever orphan. God is open to every broken soul. If only those were human qualities!

The source itself shows that divide. God’s qualities are beyond us. It is impossible for a mortal to follow God. Yet there are aspects of how we describe God, how we experience God in the world, that we can emulate. This is when we try to live in the God Zone, for lack of a better place. We imagine these loving attributes and try to acquire them for ourselves.

we are in the for lack of a better term the – God zone- that place…

Being called into hospital. – my own anxiety

Rabbis ask: on what could the world be built? Truth? Judgement? No – wouldn’t last even a minute. Mercy? No- too much chaos the other way. No order.
Answer? Blessing. Whats blessing? the deep still pool -from berakhah- its at the soul root, the place of creativity, of energy- boundless life giving force. The God Zone.

At the root of blessing sits Hesed. Hesed is more than just love. Its an overflowing abundance, in the midrash also connected with water. Because at the root of blessing is Hesed, love, compassion, something that overflows with care for the other. – universal plumbing system

This is why the Psalmist says: Hesed ybineh olam – the world is built upon Hesed. Hesed is the foundation stone that allows blessing to flow.

Heseds isn’t like anything else. There are so many human capacities that we have only in limited measure.
Patience: having teens Attention, helping homework

Hesed though is stimulated by hesed we receive from others. The more hesed offered, the more we have to offer. The more we are in the God Zone, the more we help others find that same place of creativity, of healing, of love.

Judaism is founded on Hesed: story of the daughter of Pharaoh

The world is filled with stories of Hesed. Hannah and Ruth: Hannah says I want to sit in the back so that Ruth wont be lonely. so many other choices:

So what gets in the way? The Beatles are close: hesed IS all you need. But it seems as if what should be an inexhaustible resource is always in short supply.

Ego blocks hesed. Fear, pain, hurt,- our shadow selves- all block hesed. Abraham, as the Hasidim teach, walked the land finding wells. Those were the wells of Hesed. There is an inner process of traversing our own inner and sometimes barren landscape to find and uncover those wellsprings of Hesed.

so at the moment when I feel closed, contracting, grasping, that is exactly the moment to take a breath and imagine Avraham in me, searching for wellsprings, reminding me that I have a job – to be a blessing, a fount of Hesed. To be in the God Zone. I have to breathe, to rest- to let my ability to attend to others flow out again.

Mishnah / Talmud of Sanhedrin –
easy to see why the Mishnah cant connect with Hesed – exile, hurt, etc
amazing to see the Talmud imagining God as being so much greater
If the Rabbis can transform themselves, letting go of anger, the hurt of exile, and uncover this nearly boundless compassion, can we do the same? Let go of our hurt…

Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew or rain these years, but according to my word.” He prayed, and the key of rain was given him, upon which he arose and departed…

Arise, get thee to Zarephath.” And it is further written, “And it came to pass after these things, that the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, fell sick.”

Elijah prayed that the keys of resurrection might be given him, but was answered, Three keys have not been entrusted to an agent, namely of birth rain, and resurrection. Shall it be said, Two are in the hands of the disciple and [only] one in the hand of the Master? Bring [Me] the other and take this one, as it is written, Go, show yourself to Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth.:

So also the Torah begins and ends in Hesed. At the beginning: God clothes Adam and Eve. And at the end: God buries Moses.

Its easy to get angry, to feel hurt and betrayed and to have these inner wellsprings of Hesed get blocked. To give into our human tendency to turn away and to reject. When that happens, Im cut off from blessing. Im out of the god zone. and then I need to remember: Im supposed to walk in Gods ways. Abraham did it: Abraham walked in the desert and found the wells of love and made the desert bloom. It all starts with an act of compassion, a choice to set aside ego, or hurt, or grasping and instead to uncover hesed, compassion. To enter the God Zone.

Thats why God says to Abraham: Be a Blessing. You become the embodiment of blessing, with hesed at its foundation. All it needs is one person in partnership with ME to start a flow that can’t be stopped.

wife with dead father: no one will ever love me that much – Im going to try and love you as much as anyone has ever loved you.

Maybe you can be Pharaohs daughter to a future Moses
Or the comforter for a family in trauma
Or the one who comforts a woman in grief

When we are in the God Zone, when we make the effort to be a blessing, to try and offer our own wellsprings of Hesed, we are building and repairing the world, making way for the promise of hope that YK is all about.

Maybe you can offer Hesed in a big way to someone in a dire moment of need; or maybe in a small act of timely compassion. But whatever you do, try. And then the world can be healed.

Everyone is welcome in our egalitarian Jewish community