Want to know when I post?
Add yourself to my "followers" list -- scroll down and look on the right side of the screen. Or, drop me an email at ilana@post.harvard.edu and ask me to add you to my alerts list. You'll get an email each time I post.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Time of desire

The Torah describes an עת רצון, a time of God's desire:

ואני תפילתי לך עת רצון
"My prayer goes to You at the time of desire", says the Psalmist (69:14).

כה אמר ה', בעת רצון עיניתיך
"So says God, at the time of desire I will answer you",  says Isaiah the prophet (49:7).

But when is the time of desire?

With another human, we know when it is.  When the benefactor is in a good mood, when her stock is up and you have just done something to ingratiate yourself to her.  Then you catch her eye, and the smile comes easily to her lips, and you know that now is your best chance for a yes.

With God, desire cuts the other way.

When "I am sunk in the mire and cannot stand," when "my clothing is sackcloth, and I have become an example (to pity), the folks at the gates gossip about me,"  (Psalms 69:3 & 11-12) that's when God answers in an עת רצון, a time of desire.

If a person's well-being could be graphed like the stock market, God's desire is aroused at the bottom of the valley, just as the bear hits rock bottom, just before it rises up as the horns of a bull.
וברצונך תרום קרנינו
"And in Your desire You will raise up our horn," says the Psalmist (89:18).

The Nevi'im Achronim (Prophets) and Tehilim (Psalms) are replete with pronouncements of God's love for the poor.  The Israelites in Egypt were redeemed by virtue of their forefathers, who themselves were wealthy and powerful.  But in later biblical times, suffering itself becomes a virtue.  Often, the prophet blames the wicked for the plight of the poor.  The poor in their suffering stand in contrast to the wicked in their power, the implication: poverty equals innocence.
פלטו דל ואביון, מיד רשעים הצילו
"Rescue the poor and destitute, save them from the hands of the wicked."  (Psalms 82:4)

Viewed through a hasidic lens, suffering brings us closer to God for another reason.  The poor are not inherently righteous.  But those who examine themselves and their lives through their suffering, and reach up beyond their present selves, emerge into a holier state.  The time of hardship can be an עת רצון, a time of God's desire, but only if we make it so.  Says Rebbe Nosson, the student of Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav:

"And even one who falls – chas v’chalilah – to doubts and bad thoughts and he is thinking away from God, even so, there is no despair in the world at all.  Even if it seems that he has fallen to a tainted place where God cannot be found at all,  even so, he should strengthen and fortify himself, to seek, to search, to ask after the Blessed One’s glory.  And when he asks and searches after God, and he is sorry and longing and calling out to God, and yearning to return to Him, even though he does not know any way or path or advice or plan of how to rise up and return from such places that are so distant from God, even so, through the asking and the searching within himself, he is searching and asking  for God:  'איה, where is the place of His glory?'  Through this, he rises up, for going down brings us to go up."  

1 comment:

  1. Ilana,
    When I miscarried back in 1999, a dear friend of mine, Lenny Zakim, was in the last throes of his battle with multiple myeloma. Even as I was mourning my own loss, I felt deep in my bones that this was my et razon to reach out to God on his behalf. And I did. Tehillim and personal prayer through tears every night... he passed away a few months later. And still I felt God was with us both.