Letter to an angry friend

One reason I have chosen to be Jewish is because the Jewish people has been on both sides of power so many times. This back-and-forth experience is instructive. The change from being dominated to being the dominator is a shock — the experience  of life changes all at once — it transfigures — in a way that suggests depth and permanence. But then the dominator becomes dominated, and, shockingly, the totality of life transfigures again.

If this keeps happening, and a people is miraculously able to survive it, that people has a chance to start making connections between these two pseudo-omniscient states and working these insights into its tradition. From where I stand at this point in my life this is the kind of wisdom I care about most.

People sometimes assume that the goal of spiritual life is apotheosis. I see overcoming apotheosis as far more difficult, valuable and rare. Being of God, being within God, being toward God, without accidentally becoming God, or falling into Godless nihilism, or (as so often happens) doing both simultaneously, is devilishly difficult.

Rabbi Simcha Bunim taught: “Keep two pieces of paper in your pocket at all times. On one: ‘I am a speck of dust,’ and on the other : ‘The world was created for me.'”

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