Youth Seeing Visions

But after all of that, I will let my spirit pour over humanity, and your sons and daughters will prophesize, your elders will dream dreams, and your youth will see visions. (Joel 3:1)


Dear Friends,


            The images this week of children in the streets, shoes on the lawn of the capitol, prophecies on posters turning classrooms inside out, reminded me of an obscure verse, cited above, woven into a folk tune by Debbie Friedman, and the old shall dream dreams, and the youth shall see visions.

            The verse is cited in the literature at moments of overflow. When the fear arises that there won’t be enough, but by some spiritual mystery, there is of course enough, and more. This is Jesus with the loaves and fish. The Jewish tale is of Moses, he complains before god that he doesn’t have enough wisdom to carry the burden of leadership. God says to him, fine, we’ll pass some of your wisdom off to the seventy elders and they can help you.

            The Midrash gives a parable: It’s like a king who hires a worker to guard his orchard, and pays him his rate. At some point the worker asks for help, more workers to do the job. The king says sure, but the wages are coming from your salary. So it was with god and Moses. But what differs with Moses is that his spirit and his wisdom were in no way diminished even as the prophetic powers of the elders were increased from his source.

            In all worldly expressions of giving – sacrifice we make, gifts at work and at home, services we offer, whether of time, energy, or money – the giver suffers some loss by their contribution. And the gratitude of receiving a gift should be twofold, for the gift itself, and for the loss a friend was willing to absorb for the sake of the gift.

            The Kabbalists have a term though – Atzilut, and it refers to the loftiest sphere of the universe, meaning Oneness, Singularity, Identity, Withness. If a gift, in any way touches this place, then the one who gives or provides, suffers no loss in conferring what he has upon someone else. If we can feel our deep down identity, withness, connection, to everyone, then the gift is just a sharing within one great system. Such was the case with Moses, and the kids at Parkland, and all the youth turning the world over.

            Lit up by brushes with death they can feel how their lives, their time in the world, and all the work yet to be done, is bound up in the mystery of life and death and time and withness. By any small variance, the places of the living and the dead could be switched. But visions are born from that synchronicity, and this is what they’ve seen - that we are capable of giving infinitely, and suffering no loss. Like a candle that lights ten thousand other flames, still radiant.

            Many can’t see it. We believe all gifts carry loss, and so we strive after a world of bargaining, trade-wars, and bi-partisan politics. These mindsets and pursuits are futile, and they bring pain.

            When one has tasted Atzilut, and given from that place, then in the language of the Kabbalists, one has been uprooted.  Not in the sense of destruction, in the sense of replanted. We rise from the bed of another garden. Thorns and thistles rising into redwoods and cedars.


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zach Fredman

The New ShulComment