This week’s a good time to think about how we make the world better, or worse, by how we act. Judaism has a concept called tikkun olam, repairing the world. It derives from the idea that harmony has been shattered and that it’s our job to put all the pieces together again. Think Humpty Dumpty in more grandiose spiritual terms, with day-to-day implications for your choices and decisions.
The reading’s a story of twin brothers Jacob and Esau; the smart one and the hunter. Hungry Esau sells his birthright as firstborn to Jacob for a pot of lentils. Jacob disguises himself as Esau to get his father’s blessing. No heroes here.
Each character reflects back our flawed humanity, so hungry for something they act badly to get it. Note: greed, ambition, fear, and lust often wear the cloak of urgent necessity.
Their moral elasticity reflects our own. The Buddhists have it right: life’s often about desire and what we’ll do to satisfy it. Me me me, now now now too oftentrumps goodness or wisdom.
My favorite chant in the Day of Atonement services is We have kept ourselves from change. Year after year, the specifics of bad behaviors vary. But too obstinately and consistently we feed our desires ahead of our souls.
Every moment is an active choice, a missed opportunity or chance to create holiness. If you work on self-betterment, the whole place improves. If you screw up, things stay stuck, broken. In any given moment, how do we create a lineage that reflects our better selves?
It’s not linear or easy. But every choice matters. They form patterns and the patterns form new realities.
Scientists recently discovered a gigantic new galaxy they’re calling the Phoenix Galaxy. It’s 2.5 quadrillion times bigger than our sun, and creates 750 stars the size of our sun every year. It’s setting inter-galactic records for new possible lineages.
We’re phoenixes too. Rising from the ashes of our mistakes and misdeeds, last year’s and yesterday’s. Creating new universes every day with our choices. The bad and the good. The seemingly random and utterly calculated. Driven by ambition or lentils on the one hand, and by the hope on the other that HaShem’s wind is at our back, blowing our holy spark into a holy fire.
Everything we do, acts of goodness and compassion or acts of selfishness and stupidity, becomes part of our collective lineage. Forged by whatever makes or breaks our best and holiest selves.
This week, take the extra moment to hit the pause button, to ask your hungry belly, Can I make it just a little longer without feeding that desire? Not your first instinct, but your higher one. When you hear the resonance of Yes, you’ll be well fed by the deep knowing that you’ve chosen goodness, a healing lineage for us all.