|This article sponsored by:|
As a day of rest, the Sabbath is not a mystery, yet it leads the way to mystery, and that is its fascination. On the seventh day the Lord rested from the labor of creation. This duty was passed on to His human children, and Shabbat became a devoted way to live according to God's plan. Yet behind this simple reason something deeper is at work. Shabbat belongs to a profound strain of wisdom that reveres the feminine face of God, whose silent, nurturing, receptive aspects are not easily available in our active, outward-turned lives. By observing Shabbat, the faithful are going inward to meet that silence which is the womb of creation.
Shabbat is about the source. On the seventh day God did not merely rest-He returned to his uncreated nature, that place which is before time and outside space. This domain is inconceivable, for how can anything be before time? Where is the place outside space when 'where' has no meaning? All wisdom traditions, including the Judaic, have pondered this mystery, and they came up with an amazing answer: The transcendent God, if He is beyond anything we can measure, must be everywhere at all times while being nowhere at any time. Is this just a paradox? No, for on Shabbat, the devout are asked to join God in this silent, transcendent place. This is the time to greet the timeless.
How do they accomplish this? Prayers and rituals can point the way, but it is up to the devotee to make the journey. Of course it cannot be done. To get from this finite, bounded world to God's infinite unbounded domain requires a step that the mind is helpless to achieve. God must offer a way. Therefore patience is required to find it, along with waiting, calmness, observation. Beyond resting, Shabbat is a time to be alert to whatever clue God wants to send your way. For some the clue is a sense of peace or safety or being loved or of direct connection to the divine. What these all have in common is traditionally called God's presence-a mysterious indicator that God is here, even though on the surface He leaves not the slightest footprint in the visible world. Shabbat is a time, then, to stop believing your senses and to see with the eyes of the soul.
In Sanskrit the word for this presence is Shakti, in Hebrew it is Shekinah. Being devoid of human images for God, Judaic belief does not turn Shakti into a wife for the male god, a dancing seductress with an irresistible smile. Rather, Shekinah is pure light, a divine energy that can penetrate this solid, sleeping world to wake up those souls who are willing to feel its presence. But what the ancient texts tell us of Shakti tempts me to say that she is Shekinah as well. Shakti is that impulse of God that wants to touch the heart of the devout, to cause transformation, to render the human more than human. This happens in five ways, and to me they are the five aspects of Shabbat that are truly a part of the 'one light':
1. Silence. This is not an empty silence but a sounding chamber for whatever God will fill in. Silence is expectant, and with prayer and attention, the expectation bears fruit as a sense of being with God.
2. Bliss. This is happiness for no reason, happiness that cannot be taken away. By the name of ecstasy it pertains to sense of being beyond hope or despair, standing beyond your mortal coil. Bliss grows from silence naturally.
3. The fulfillment of prayer. In the deepest silence the deepest prayers are answered. We discover that God's presence is not static but gives organizing power to our desires, hopes, and aspirations.
4. Knowingness or intuition. God's presence gives us a direct way of knowing that is the source of wisdom. This knowing is not a matter of rationality; answers come to us from beyond our limited personalities, as if from the source.
5. Inspired action, the holy life. When all of these gifts of the Shekinah are received, then it is possible to live the holy life in full measure, because our actions are spontaneously right and good in accord with divine intention.
I have not been giving a mystical picture of Shabbat but rather a path. Every year the calendar shows the same holy days, but in life they deepen with the passage of time. God's light or presence becomes fuller and fuller. The eyes of the soul become our natural way of seeing. In the ripening of each season, we discover that a spark of light which once glimmered very faintly inside the heart has now spread everywhere, as it must if it is divine. Shabbat is fulfilled when the devout can walk down any street at any hour and see holiness in the face of a stranger or the hard glint of stone. God will have dropped His mask, revealing the secret of being at once everywhere and nowhere.
When asked what the most important spiritual practice one can implement into his or her life, Deepak simply replies, "Meditation."
In closing, we offer these two beautiful quotes from Rumi:
"Let the water settle; you will see the moon and stars
mirrored in your being."
"Out beyond the ideas of right-doing or wrong-doing there is a field- I'll meet you there."
The Chopra Center http://www.chopra.com/