One Jewish account of creation is as follows: God contracted the divine self to make room for creation. Divine light became contained in special vessels, or kelim, some of which shattered and scattered. As a result, good and evil remained thoroughly mixed in the created world, and human souls became imprisoned within the shards. Humans have been charged with the work of tikkun olam, a Hebrew phrase that can be roughly translated as “repair of the world.” We repair the world by claiming the Divine light and choosing to embody goodness by engaging in the healing of the world.
The Hebrew word for world, olam, appears in Ecclesiastes 3:
God has placed eternity (olam) in our hearts, yet we cannot fathom what he will do from beginning to end.
Wow. God, the creator of all, placed a piece of the eternal world in our hearts.
I find it difficult to expand on this profound truth, and I don’t want to. Rather, I can share the moments in my life where I might have begun to grasp God’s eternal presence in me.
These are moments that seem too big for our bodies: a dear friend finally conceiving and bearing child after years of trying, finding someone who loves even the most human parts of you, connecting with a stranger as if you had known them for years. In these moments of profound connection and intimacy my heart feels like it’s going to burst into shards of light. Eternity is in me.
These moment are breathtaking.
These moments are frustrating.
As much as I try, I cannot create, manufacture or grasp these moments. They are fleeting, brief encounters with the eternal wisdom that was beside and with God from the beginning of the world (Prov 8:9).
This, I think, is the reality of the human experience. We were created by God to be God’s very image. The Holy Spirit, described beautifully in Proverbs 8, is ever crying within us to embody her way. And sometimes, we get it. However, we are often frustrated (understandably so) because we cannot see the whole picture from beginning to end.
So what do we do?
We pay attention to the voice of God that is within us. We follow the way of righteousness and justice. We enjoy the bits of the divine we are graced to encounter. We eat. We drink. We take pleasure in our work. We do what is placed before us and trust God with the rest. We try our best to engage in the repair of the world, one eternal moment at a time.
Prayer: May I embody the light of God.
Reflection: How can you create space to listen to wisdom speaking within you? How do you feel called to engage in the repair of the world?
Art: Tikkun Olam: Heal the World by Laurie Morgan
Attribution: The description of Tikkun Olam comes from My Jewish Learning.