Think about the Shma--one of our most powerful prayers and affirmations. We affirm God’s unity and uniqueness in the universe, and in doing so, we are mindful that we humans, as individuals and as a collective, are part of the One. In Leviticus, we are commanded to “Love the other as you love yourself.” To really love the other, we must recognize this “other” as part of self. When we relate to another from our soul, we generate love. This is why the commitment to love HaShem, our God, with all our heart and with all our life force, comes directly after the Shma, where we invoke our awareness of God’s unity--ainod milvado--there is only God.
When we connect with one another from a soul place—what Martin Buber would call I-Thou—we co-create a holy relationship: we create an angel. When we spend time together, we nourish our angel. When we are apart and not sharing with one another and not holding the awareness that we are connected, our angel weakens. If we are not together for a year, our angel has no power and is as if it were dead. This is why we invoke the blessing that God revives the dead when we reconnect. We are reviving the angel of our relationship. It is through our relationships that we encounter Presence. This happens when we recognize other as part of self in our connection with God. When we engage in this kind of soul-to-soul encounter, we create angels.
I saw a quote today from Pierre Teilhard De Chardin: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience: we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” This quote reinforced for me the work that I need to do to prepare for the High Holy Days. To deepen my relationship with “other”, I need to meditate on my relationship with my “self”. The work of tshuvah—of returning to authentic self—returning to my life groove in harmony with God, must begin by recognizing and nourishing my own soul. If I cannot recognize my own soul, how can I truly generate love? In order to connect with others from my soul, I must first revive my angel through my relationship with myself and the Divine within me.
In what seems like the distant past, one of my teachers, Rabbi Mychal Springer, taught that, as rabbis, the only way we can teach authentically is from our soul to our congregants’ souls. Human egos constantly name, categorize, analyze and judge others and otherness. The constructs we create as human beings only seem like reality. We think we know because we can name and judge—but when we are stuck in our egos, we miss encountering Essence.
If we spend too much time in the realm of doing (which is connected to ego) and not in the realm of being (connected to soul), we weaken our soul angel. If we spend too much energy and time in a storm of media bombardment that fuels fears and anxiety, we weaken our soul angel. If we spend too much time in the realm of the material, we weaken our soul angel.
My hope for us right now is to care for our soul angel. Take the time to reconnect with the deepest parts of self. Enter the realm of being, to be nourished by Presence and to sense God’s Essence in our world. Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach z”l used to teach that when you sayShanah Tovah--“[Have] a good year”--it is not a simple platitude. When you say Shanah Tovah, you need to really mean it. This means that you are really saying, “I will do everything I can to be with you, to witness you and to care for you, for you to have a good year.” It means, “I want to nourish our angel.” To nourish the angels we co-create with others, we must nourish the angel within our own self—the angel of our soul.
“Shanah Tovah u'Metukah—a good and sweet year of hope, joy and wonder for us all”
– Rabbi Harry