Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Monday, December 23, 2013

Tzimtzum...For Everything There is a Season

This was the first of the season story is "Tombstone Territory"
 A little over a year ago I wrote of how my energy ebbed as the days shortened in "Hibernating Through the Holidays." It looks as if I'm doing it again! This time, I'm not letting any guilt feelings seep through to spoil my period of tzimtzum!

I'm not certain when I began to believe that rest and recuperation, even in winter, amounted to just plain shirking. I suspect it may have started  in my preadolescence. Grandma Gertie's favorite maxim seemed to be the one about idol hands and the devil's mischief. Somehow I managed to internalize that noxious idea...that busyness equated with goodness, rest with evil. Sloth...a deadly sin, she'd remind me...sloth, sloth, sloth!

Last week a psychoanalyst friend in Los Angeles, also a widow, emailed me that she had been pressured by adult children to visit with them and other relatives over the holidays...and all she really wanted to be was alone with her animals, the dogs she calls her co-therapists.

I wrote back that I shared her preference...that I wanted to enjoy some solitude, as well. Even though there's always plenty to do, projects to complete, stories to write, friends to correspond with and visit, what I really craved for a holiday treat was a period of rest and renewal.

This is the present I've given myself this season. And it's been a rewarding week...Fred Astaire movies, murder mysteries and afternoon naps. I've not been totally idle, oh, no. One afternoon I devoted hours to cleaning out my email inbox! That's a task that doesn't require much effort, only a lot of time.

My very wise friend in Los Angeles also is a Sephardic Jew who attends the Sinai Temple. A few days after we shared our mutual embrace of solitude for the holidays, she sent me a piece written by Rabbi David Wolpe, for his column, Off the Pulpit. To my astonishment, I'd never before heard of the concept of tzimtzum...but it's absolutely what I'm experiencing during this cold winter season.

I've pasted it below...for those who still feel guilty because their own frowning Grandma Gertie act-alike shook a finger whenever they longed to sneak away with a Bobbsey Twin adventure instead of sweeping their's an antidote to the poison of guilt!

Addition by Contraction 

The mystics speak of tzimtzum, withdrawal or contraction. God, who fills all, contracts into God’s self to allow space for the world to be created. Tzimtzum is a concept in theological physics, teaching what it means to limit oneself to enable creation.

It is also a lesson in human psychology. We too create space within ourselves, within our lives. The lesson of tzimtzum is that withdrawal precedes overflow; the cistern bursts forth in a fountain. Moses withdraws for 40 days up the mountain and comes down to teach. Rabbi Akiba leaves for years to study and returns to become the Gadol Hador, the great one of his generation.

There are moments in life to expand, and stretch beyond our usual capacities. But we learn from this powerful mystical concept how important it is now and again to contract, to make smaller, to withdraw. In a world that fills our minds and our time, the ability is increasingly important. God created a space to make the world. We make a space inside ourselves to let the world in. Then we can open to give more of ourselves to our world.
Rabbi David Wolpe is spiritual leader of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter: @RabbiWolpe.

The entire four season series by Tending Your Inner Garden  is still available as a special:

1 comment:

  1. Great concept and I too, understand the need to be still and renew. I am looking forward to doing nothing next week.