I-Centers — A Circle of Ways to See the World
TISHA B’AV 5772 / 2012
Any person who acquires daat, it is as if he built the Temple in his days. (Brochot 33a)
The world came into being when God took a certain [sapphire] stone, which is called the “Foundation Stone”, and cast it into the abyss, and upon that stone God founded the world. It is the center point of the universe and upon it stands the Holy of Holies…This stone has on it seven eyes, as Zechariah prophesied, “On one stone seven eyes”… [And Ezekiel describes this sapphire stone] “as the likeness a throne…full of eyes all around.” (Zohar 1:231a)
On Tisha B’Av we mourn the loss of our House of Holy Presence (aka Bet HaMikdash), the heart of our people, that turns us from a throng into a higher order unity called Kenesset Yisrael, a synonymous term for Shekhina. Without our holy hub it is hard to contain the ricochet of our clashing extremes that produce the causeless hatred that prevents our inner peace.
We hope for mashiach to redeem us from this strife—certain that when truth finally prevails, all will agree that our opinion was the right one all along. Most secretly expect that among the pleasures of our messianic Golden Age will be the thrill of vindication, the opportunity to say, “I told you so”.
But what are we waiting for. The Talmud clearly states what we must do to build the Temple now. Let’s roll up our sleeves and start acquiring daat. And R. Tsadok tells us what that means.
When Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Daat—Knowledge of Good and Evil—it is daat that shattered and it is daat that we, their descendants, must now strive to repair. Daat is translated as internalized knowing for it integrates knowledge so deeply that it becomes part of our flesh. Daat’s power of unification dissolves the chasm between head and heart, or self and other.
According to kabbala, the measure of one’s daat is gauged by one’s capacity to bear paradox—to accept that two contradictory assertions are both true and find a way to negotiate between them. The mightier the daat the greater its power to unite incompatible opposites. It’s no great feat to join like to like, but it is extremely challenging to bridge polarities. But what does this have to do with building a Temple?
It is fair to say that we are all hoping for mashiach (however we conceive of that person, couple or era). And yet there are prerequisites. There is a tipping point—there is some critical measure of tikun that we, as a people, must complete before we can enter the reward phase of history. It might be that, bottom-line, there is just more that needs to be done. But it might also be that we (as a people) have already reached the quota, but because we are so fragmented, the cumulated mitzvoth of this faction don’t combine with the mitzvoth of that faction given the barbed wire fence (metaphorically) between them. And so, if we could acknowledge that this “other” (across the barricade) is actually motivated by a Jewish value even though it seems to us that they’ve applied it in a counterproductive way, still our admission carves out a channel between us and them which allows our respective merits to combine. It might be that at this point in history consolidating our mitzvoth will make a more dramatic difference than generating new ones.
This acknowledgment doesn’t mean that you must now support their efforts. In fact you could decide that your life’s mission is to oppose their efforts and block their path. You could decide that although they are promoting a Jewish value they have taken it totally out of context and are applying it in a way that harms the Jewish people instead of helping them.
Even still, there is something gained by acknowledging that underneath it all, this other is still driven by a Jewish value (however extreme or unbalanced its expression). First because that admission opens a channel of energetic exchange between us and them, allowing our respective merits to be added together to the pool of credits that must reach a critical value, to bring mashiach now.
And second, because there is this whole system of compensation and counterbalance that happens unconsciously within our nation. For every imbalance in this direction (for example toward the political left), there is an equal and opposite imbalance in the other direction (i.e. toward the political right). When we see extremism, our habit is to neutralize it by leaning more heavily to the other side. But in the end, that is actually counterproductive—it produces the opposite effect of what we intended—it produces even more reactivity that we must now offset by becoming even more extreme ourselves.
Instead, if we could (for a moment) disengage from the dispute, step back, and find the shared truth—the Jewish value—that is also driving this person’s actions, then we stop participating in the polarization of our people and instead become a centering force.
By searching out the sliver of truth in these (mostly) contrary perspectives we acquire daat (the joiner of polarities) and build the Temple in our day. With each success we make space in our psyche for a new angle of truth. The composite of vantage points that we create through this effort is a precursor to the mysterious Foundation Stone which lies at the center of the universe and “has eyes all around.”
Please, Hashem, help us to acquire the daat that enables us to honor our own I-center which organizes the world according to the preferences and aversions that reflect its value frame…and, at the same time, still make space in our psyche for others to assert different (even contrary) truths…and to do all this in a way that is real, yet does not weaken the vehemence of our own position or produce doubt regarding the certainty of our own beliefs. And may it be on this Tisha B’Av that our daats finally fuse into the holy foundation stone which has as many angles as there are truth-perspectives in the universe. And may we each enjoy a moment of vindication when we point to our facet of the Foundation Stone and, to cheers and thunderous applause, announce before the world, “I told you so.”