The Essence of the Spiritual Project
As the story of Genesis turns from the mythologies of creation and the flood, into the origin myth of our ancestors, the first two words encapsulate the essence of the entire spiritual project, that each one of us is living, whether we want to be or not. God says to Abraham and Sarah, “Go, go! And leave behind your homeland, your birthplace and the home of your family. Go to the place I will show you.”
In the playspace of Jewish interpretation, those first words, “Go go!” come to mean “go unto yourself” “into yourself” - just as you make your life’s pilgrimage out in the world, don’t forget the journey within, navigating the cataclysms of your inner life, which is just as significant an adventure.
The comments in the Zohar, the great work of Jewish mysticism, are profound here. They ask, what does this verse mean? And they answer, this is a pilgrimage of self repair. And how do we make said pilgrimage? By leaving behind the stories we tell ourselves, of where we think we came from, and our self-righteous suffering, and where we think we are going. The mystics were profoundly forward thinking, intuiting the capacity of the mind to tell itself stories and create its own realities, hundreds of years before Freud’s psychological revolution.
What stories do you continue to tell yourself, even when they no longer serve you? (Discuss this with a friend over Shabbat!) I myself, am headed to a session this very moment to unravel some of those stories.
My story is about feeling unsupported. I’m so often in the role of supporting others, sometimes I have a hard time feeling the care of others, and I have a hard time asking for support. But I know the story is unreal, and it’s holding me back. Often, I’m astounded by the beauty of this community, the way in which friends are present to me and to each other, giving of themselves unconditionally. And when we’re in the fluidity of supporting each other, our potential is greatly magnified. I’m ready to let go of this story.
To change an inner story takes tremendous mental clarity, and emotional steadiness. First, be mindful of the story when you hear it rising in your ear. Don’t let it flood you. That deluge will take you to a place you are all too familiar with. We’re after a place “I will show you.”
That’s the secret, you have to be willing to let go of the old narrative before you’ve even set foot in new earth. It will feel like a tiny opening, a vision like the eye of a needle. Let that opening be a doorway to the unexplored depth of your mind and heart. Let its light, no matter how faint, be a call to continue making your way. Go to yourself, the one I’ll show you. Go, go.
Rabbi Zach Fredman