Soon after the miraculous splitting of the Sea of Reeds, when fear and resistance have already grabbed at the peoples hearts, comes another, perhaps less spectacular miracle--the miracle of manna, the gift of daily sustenance that descends like dew upon the ground (see Exodus, Chapter 16). And along with the manna, even they stand at Sinai, the people receive the mandate to rest on the seventh day. What you gather on the sixth day, G~d assures them, will be enough for two days; you'll be provided for, even when you stay in your place, not reaching out for sustenance.
Manna—this reminder of a benevolent cosmos that hears human pain, nurtures, and assuages fear—comes with dependable regularity to reassure frightened minds and traumatized bodies. It is not a one-time Cecil B. deMille-worthy miracle, but a reliable, daily gift that, slowly, over time, works to soften fisted hearts and soothe shattered nerves. And in this context, Shabbat, the day for which a double portion is received, when one is exhorted to stay home and to be fed without having to “gather,” can be seen as Torah’s spiritual curriculum for undoing the inner bonds of slavery—a G~d-given day of spiritual retreat, a day for each person to remember being “b’tzelem elohim,” divine in nature, and a member of a community that together honors its G~d-likeness through acts of justice, sanctity, and beauty.
Each week we, too, have this “day,” this possibility of dedicated time to experience freedom through every sense gate—to taste, smell, touch, sing, and dance freedom. Each week Jewish tradition mandates a day of retreat, a day of sensuous mindfulness in which to cultivate faith and trust, to set aside the urgency of self-importance and the fear of not-enoughness, and to rest in the great sea of Being. Each week I have a chance to allow the container of Shabbat to move me from a superficial appreciation of my own freedoms to the expansive connectedness of a truly liberated consciousness that, eventually, might permeate every day, every breath.
Here's my poetic musing on freedom, written following an embodied exercise in which we focused on our breathing and dropped into the "empty" space, the stillness between each full exhale and the receiving of the next in-breath Of course, I'm aware of how many political and physical freedoms I have, as contrasted with my fellow beings in many parts of the world, including right here in my own country, my own town. Yet, how much my consciousness is still enslaved by the toxic cultural "brine" in which I soak (see Kevin Anderson's piece "How to Soak in Divine Brine" in the March/April issue of Spirituality and Health)! How essential to steep regularly in an atmosphere of faith and trust that reconnect me to the holiness of life.
from the spaces
a divine ordinance
to be accessed
like a quilt of
of the soul
to attain its
this is freedom