Thursday, October 30, 2008

Background and context material

Much of what I have been writing here is to help people to better understand God, his love, mercy, will and his expectations of humans and "his point of view." As a result I often have to fill in gaps of understanding modern people have about what life was like for humans when they lived closer to both God and to the earth (everyday reality). This is essential because people are misunderstanding what they read in the Bible (and also, to some extent, the Qur'an) because they have lost the context to understand some of the aspects of ordinary life that illuminate what God intends to communicate and also what the holy authors of the holy books were actually saying.

To help in this understanding I have found a wonderful reference here, which is writing from the Rebbe Schneerson, explaining the significance of the Jewish month of Chesvan, which started today. If you read this it will instantly transport you to the time when the holy books were written, when you have a peek at the lifestyle and mindset of the people in the holy lands.


When the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, the festival of Sukkot (Tishrei 15-21) was a time of pilgrimage for all Jews, when all came to see and be seen at the Temple, the seat of G-d's manifest presence in the physical world. In the days following the festival, the caravans would stream from the holy city and make the long (physically for some, spiritually for all) trek back to plow and pruning hook, back to field, vineyard and orchard. The end of the first week of the month of Cheshvan found the people of Israel once more each under his grapevine, each under his fig tree.


Cheshvan is the month in which we return to our pedestrian involvements after many weeks in which the spiritual was at the forefront of our lives. Indeed, the only distinguishing feature of this month is the fact that it is the only month on the Jewish calendar that does not have a single festival or special day.

In truth, however, the month of Cheshvan, by virtue of its ordinariness, represents the very purpose of life on earth. For the Jew does not live only for the spiritual experiences of the festivals, merely tolerating the stretches of ordinary days and weeks in between; on the contrary-the holy days which dot our year exist for the sake of the so-called mundane days of our lives.


For the duration of the festival of Sukkot, the Jew left his field and field-related concerns behind and came to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, where the miraculous was the norm and the divine presence was openly perceived. But then began his journey back home-home to his homestead, home to his mission and purpose. For some it was a journey of several hours, for others, of several days, and for the last Jew farming his land on the most distant frontier of Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel, it was a fifteen-day journey to the Euphrates. On the 7th of Cheshvan, when every last Jew was home on his own land, the entire community of Israel began to pray for rain, beseeching G-d to bless their efforts to work the earth and the earthiness of the world into an abode for His presence.

Do read the entire thing, though, because this commentary goes beyond just discussing the meaning of the past month and the new month, but also has some marvelous "insights" into what I call "God's point of view."

I've commented before that no one "gets" (comprehends) God better than the orthodox Jewish scholars, and as regular readers know, I am a great fan of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Schneerson. What is written here is a real gem and very helpful to those who struggle to understand what "part" of God exists on earth, among humankind, and his motivations or to say it more correctly, his perfect will in this regard.

This will provide valuable background to understanding the commentary I am still in the process of writing on this blog, which is to examine the Qur'an's perspective toward Jacob and the other patriarchs. I've been a little tired and worn out recently, so I'm adding to it as I can, as you can see in the posting that is two before this one. But sometimes slow is useful because just as I was about to add to it, I see this valuable context material. My Muslim readers should definitely read this link, as there is nothing in it contradictory to what is gifted by God in the Qur'an to Islam. Rather, it gives insight as to what God would have intended as he revealed to the Muslims the holy places of Abraham and Isaac that were located in their land, but unknown as they had been lost in the years that had elapsed until revealed to the Prophet (PBUH). So the Rebbe gives some valuable perspective, even better than I could have explained, ha, about why God has these hidden places on earth, that then become revealed to humans who believe.

And of course, Christians need to better understand this too, especially those who are not Catholics and who have swung a bit too far in the direction of "where two gather in my name" and away from remembering that there is a need for special, sanctified places of God's presence on earth too. That is a commonality of essential and correct understanding that orthodox Jews, Muslims and Catholics most definitely share, though in different historical and current manifestations. So do invest the time in reading and pondering that commentary by the Rebbe.