Weapons & Empty Vessels
The Hebrew word for weapon is [K.L.I.]. But Hebrew language is a system of meaning connected like the synapses of the mind or the webs of the net, and the word also means: vessel, receptacle, garment, tool, weapon, to contain, to be full, to cease, to destroy. It happens to appear in this week’s portion from the Torah, which details some of the vessels to be used by the priests as they work the ceremonies of the Tabernacle.
My heart is too pained to meditate any further on weapons and vessels of violence. We will march and work to support the effort to end the acceptance of gun violence in this country. But our hearts are growing numb. I have seen too many pictures of semi-automatic rifles this week, to play after their symbolism.
The supreme vessel though, is not any tool of an artist, a baker, a musician or an archer, but the devotee themselves, our bodies, a wondrous receptacle for a heart a mind, sometimes a soul. And one might be tempted to consider the spiritual path as a gathering of wisdoms, a collection of learning to be placed within our knapsack. But the cabalists teach the opposite. The great work is to empty the vessel, that it might be filled from a source beyond anything you are I might stick inside it.
What does this mean? Emptying the vessel. And how is it accomplished?
We are capable of witnessing each of our own actions and judging their egotism. And we should get in the habit of marking every act with a score of selflessness. Many of our actions, overcome with self-concern, ruining in unconscious egoism would not score well. But acts that serve others, and deeds wherein we find ways to check our self-serving nature, receive higher marks. We cannot help but breathe as we act in the world, and that regular emptying and filling of the lungs, the cycling of our physical vessel, should stand as a constant reminder of the work that must also continue to operate on the planes of heart, mind and soul, if we are to make any psycho-spiritual leap in our lifetimes. Every breath is capable of being filled by self-fullness or something else.
If this self-witnessing became a practice, our clay’s wetness would return, and our vessels would remold in the hands of a potter far wiser than you and I. I am certain that this inner work would also be of great service to the world without us. Imagine the politicians and the preachers all filled with nothing. My how their deeds would change. Your being is a teacher.
Rabbi Zach Fredman
PS – Shul tonight. Grace Church School, 86 4th Ave. 630pm.