Saturday, April 01, 2006

Two "yous" and omnibenevolence

From a discussion of the weekly Torah portion within Jerusalem Post, comes these words from Shlomo Riskin:

I believe the meaning [about why God often calls Moses' name twice] will become clear when we take note of a time-honored mystical concept . . . that there are two images for every individual: the image of the person as he/she is, and the image of the person as it appears on the ethereal chariot. As Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik once explained, there are in reality two yous: you as you are in this world, and the you who you have the potential to become as engraved on God's throne of glory. Ultimately, we are judged in terms of how great a distance there is between these two yous - between who we are in reality and who we could have been.

I find this idea of the "two yous" to hold much truth -- in that I would agree that it is healthy and beneficial that we constantly challenge ourselves to live up to our "potential." But the BIG QUESTION is what we see that potential as? Do we interpret it as some type of career or sports or health or financial "potential"? Or do we try to see it as the potential that God expects of us?

If it is God that we look to, then what is expected of us? Each tradition would seem to have its own answer. However, what if we asked ourselves with the light and understanding of the traditions behind us, what does it mean to "walk in ways of Lord"?

Rabbi Walter Wurzburger, a current favorite commentator of mine, states that the laws of the nature and the laws of ethics "are grounded in the omnibenevolent will of God. The link between the real world of nature (the is) and the ideal world of ethics (the ought) is expressed in Psalm 19. After proclaiming that 'The heavens declare the glory of God . . . ,' the Psalmist turns to the normative sphere and continues with 'The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul.'"

What if we could believe that this idea of "omnibenevolence" [I love that word!] is not simply a description of God's will, but our own potential? Then we would have a challenge before us that I would claim is worthy of each of us who was "created in the image of God."

The Mahayana Buddhists would describe this "omnibenevolence" as a wish and a commitment to help every sentient being find happiness and reach enlightenment. While one talmudic opinion tells us, “it is preferable to throw oneself into a burning furnace rather than embarrass another person publicly.” And of course, Jesus' own giving up of his life for others is another example of this omnibenevolence,

An "omnibenevolent you" -- that is a potential to strive towards.

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