Strength. Structure. Power. Boundaries. Discipline. Within Discipline. Boundaries. Power. Structure. Strength.
Hey Star Wars fans! Can you go back to 1978, when Luke Skywalker took his X-Wing into the narrow passage he had to navigate to take down the Death Star? That’s what I’m talking about!
OK, so in some obvious ways it’s not the most peace-lovin’ image, but it’s what I keep seeing when I think about this. He had to work within very definite Boundaries, and within those Boundaries he had to keep intensely Disciplined focus - focus on the task, focus on not crashing into the walls, focus on using The Force to help him focus.
For me, the thought that I live my life in partnership with G-d is, well, essential. Last week I wrote about being swaddled in Love. Yummy. I think this very much applies here, too. In our tradition, times of distress and traivail are referred to as “narrow places” (Mitzrayim). Last week, we celebrated our liberation from slavery in Egypt (Mitzrayim). As the story goes, we are brought out Mitzrayim into freedom, into the vast expanse of the desert. But what happens next? “Wait! Bring me back!” Expanse, for our ancestral wanderers isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It's too big. They need to be swaddled.
I very much relate to this. Sometimes the world just feels too big. I like to sit in corners, in window seats, in little nooks, and I sure love a giant bear hug in a time of travail. I love knowing that there is a great Power and Strength holding me tight, so that I don’t fall apart at the seams when I feel uncertain and afraid. I like facts, schedules, plans, and directions.
I also don't mean to say that just because I LIKE these things, they are inherently good, and I should never do a little desert wandering. The fact of my life, though, is that I happen to be a person who found freedom through Structure and Boundaries at a time that my life was taking a bad direction. There is a a great deal of comfort to be found within Structure and Discipline. "Ahavah rabbah ahavtanu..." "With a great love, you have loved us..." If you keep reading down this text, so central to our liturgy, you find out that one of the great gifts of this Great, Divine love was a very detailed user's manual for life.
Full disclosure: I definitely am not a person who assiduously keeps each Mitzvah as spelled out in our beloved Torah. However, I gratefully live within the Divine Paradox of the fact that when I stay consistent with the daily Disciplines that keep me bound up in the Presence of my G-d swaddle, I can relax, my mind can expand, and I find my Strength unbounded.
Strength within Strength. Strength within Boundaries. Power within Structure.