This week I have a guest. My son Jonathan left his film and photo studio in Chicago and travelled 2000 miles to join his parents in celebrating Passover. You have a guest too. Here is a guest blog by Jonathan Cohon. Comments can go to either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
SENTENCE YOURSELF TO LIGHT by Jonathan Cohon
The simplicity of the statement: “there is one G-d and God is one”, is a beautiful, empowering, and definitive concept that can be the vehicle to a more manageable life, if one just lets it.
We are now celebrating the holiday of Pesach, the story of G-d delivering the people Israel from Egyptian slavery. We have all heard, or read the story, even seen the film! What new message can we gain from it now?
First we will make it contemporary by redefining Egypt not as a place or a time but as a condition. A condition that celebrates one human being as the source of all things and all powers; in the past this human was called Pharaoh. Today it is called by many names: ego, self, greed, fear, etc. We redefine the people Israel as you, the reader. We shall keep G-d as the one element of continuity between the original and the contemporary, we know G-d worked then and we shall see how G-d can work now.
The story is not hard to contemporize: the plagues that damage ‘Egypt’, the world of the ego, are the result of frailties that are all too human: stubbornness, arrogance, denial, etc. As each plague hits we see the momentary willingness to recognize G-d expressed as ‘foxhole prayers’. We’ve all said them: G-d get me a good grade, G-d get me that girl, G-d just get me home without a ticket. Then if we get the grade, the girl, or escape the ticket the prayers end and ego is again in control denying the spiritual action that saved us from our self-imposed darkness.
But what happens when we are faced with an implacable cost? In the classic story the cost is the death of all first born sons. For each of us that cost is different. But when faced with it, the ultimate surrender is offered from an intellectual source. Then, when the threat of that cost is apparently avoided and the ego returns to control, it is angry and engages in truly self-destructive action may destroy more than the original implacable cost. The excuse “our heart wasn’t in it” applies. A misquote of a famous phrase “I know therefore I doubt” best describes the condition of a life lived solely by knowledge, where doubt is a form darkness that is incompatible with the oneness of G-d; a darkness that is most often dispelled by the synthesis of knowledge and passion.
So, where is the silver lining? Where is the positive? Return to the original message: there is one G-d and G-d is one. In our own way we can break the cycle by first taking this simple statement as fact, like gravity. Then applying that fact as we encounter every event in our lives be they celebratory, mundane, or challenging.
But how do we apply this? Start with a simple prayer: G-d, relieve me of the resistance to knowing your presence. And what can happen next? The principle of this prayer, when applied to circumstances that can be described as darkness can bring light, and help create that crucial connection of thought to passion. Try saying this before an important business meeting, a first date, or driving home in rush hour traffic. Each of these are daily living challenges that can only be helped by a connection to the oneness of G-d.
How and when is this accomplished? The connecting of the logical mind with the total force of the heart at a moment when neither alone can sustain you will yield that synthesis. When this happens, a first and fantastic step on the journey to faith has been taken and the light that comes from this synthesis will dispel the darkness of doubt. The courage to be willing to do this, when drawn from the oneness of G-d, is in it self an act of faith.
Can this simple ten word sentence: G-d, relieve me of the resistance to knowing your presence, do that much? Only if you use it. Use it to defeat your personal Pharaoh and free yourself from the slavery of what holds you in darkness and move into G-d’s light and be part of the oneness of G-d.