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Protest as Prayer (Part 12): On Secrets

SecretBy Marc Gafni

This post is continued from Part 11.

That this is true is mystery and mystery is esoteric — it is secret. Secret, not because, as it is usually explained, it is forbidden to reveal the mysteries to the uninitiated; rather, secret because it is not possible to reveal the mysteries at all. For if the soul is not ready to receive the mystery then the secret cannot be transmitted. The holy energy of uncertainty is in the realm of mystery. I cannot fully explain. Yet two guidelines for those who would struggle to understand are in order.

The Rebbe of Kutzk teaches about the old man and the young baby. They both ask the same questions. ‘How, When, What, Where – Ayeh?’

Though the words are the same, worlds of wisdom separate them. For the baby asked his question and received an answer. That answer led to him ask the same questions again — only at a higher level. He received answers — which in turn created a new set of questions — the same as before and yet so much higher. And this process repeated itself through the years until the little baby was an old man. At the end of his life the old man asks, How — when — what — who — Where ‘Ayeh’?

In every question there are a thousand answers. Every uncertainty embraces a thousand certainties. The uncertainty is the highest expression of all the certainties and …beyond. This is what the old man finally understood.

What does the old man know as he formulates the uncertainty of the end. He knows that he is uncertain. He knows also that no lower certainty can contain his soul. Only uncertainly can sing the praises of his God. It is a song of relationship. For uncertainty is about loving. Loving means to care enough to be uncertain.

At this point the Yehuda Moment of core certainty merges with the Israel Moment of uncertainty. The affirmation of the question comes from a profound affirmation of core certainty of self. Specifically we affirm the dignity and validity of our rage.

We recognize that the rage is indeed holy as it wells from the deepest recesses of our being. We refuse to invalidate our core certainty of self. We refuse to deny the holiness of our moral intuitions. We embrace the sanctity of our ethical knowing. We are capable of calling evil by its name. We do not need to deny self by refusing to identify evil by its name because somehow to deny is to damage faith principles which are not of our selves. We refuse to deny our rage. We understand that at the deepest place our anger is God. It is holy anger.

The inner voice, which refuses to accept the cruel certainties of the theological answers to why bad things happen to Good people, is indeed the voice of God. The ultimate paradox: the core certainty of self allows us to hold the holiness of radical uncertainty in the face of evil. And at the same time — radical rage in the face of evil affirms our core certainty about the divine in world and most importantly, the divine in ourselves.

This is the certainty of the Yehuda Moment. This is the teaching of the Book of Job which we have unpacked throughout the book, “through my flesh I see God.” (Job 19). In Post-Renaissance mystical teachings, particularly in the works of the Chassidic masters, this means that my core sense of self is real and it needs to be taken seriously. Forced theological constructs should never be allowed to overwhelm my primal intuitions.

Photo Credit: h.koppdelaney

Protest as Prayer (Part 5): Certainty of Rage


This post is continued from Part 4

By Marc Gafni

Said differently, by holding uncertainty and not settling for explanations of suffering that our soul intuitively rejects, we reach a higher certainty — the certainty of rage. It may well be that in a century that has seen one hundred million people brutally killed the only path back to God is the certainty of rage. Those who deny the holiness of our anger deny God.

Babies are part of our core certainty. They remind us of all that is pure. They somehow cut though our posturing and touch something deep inside us. Have you ever seen a baby brought into an office — no matter how serious the office — grown men and women almost immediately revert to baby talk, to goo goo gaga. Babies cry out for our protection. They call us to rise to our highest selves. Perhaps this is what Leah understood for the first time as she looked down at little Judah. Until Judah’s birth Leah had been so intent on using her children to get Jacob that she hadn’t really seen them. Only when she gives up her need for Jacob is she able to see her baby. It is from this place she cries out — “I have found myself before God.”

Babies being ripped apart — my mother’s youthful vision — destroy that core certainty. “Where Is God” writes Weisel, “he is hanging on the gallows”…. In the body of a young boy. Incarnation is reversed in the horror of suffering. God becomes human and dies on the gallows. In the reversal is the death of God about which some post-holocaust theologians wrote with such pathos. The Biblical response is different. Biblical men and women work their way back to God, not through pious imprecations justifying God nor through pathos-filled announcements of God’s demise, but through the certainty of rage.

Photo Credit: dariuszka