9/29/2006

Fakin' it for God

A long time ago, I wrote a post (twice actually; the first one was erased) entitled On Chumra. In it. toward the end, I addressed the original chumra of the Aseret Yemei Teshuva - eating chullin al taharat ha-kodesh, 'plain' unsanctified food in a state of ritual purity. It goes without saying that this was an androcentric chumra, as women weren't always capable of eating chullin be-tahara, but I digress. The point is (see the Maharsha on the Rabbi Safra story at the end of Makkot- if I get a chance, I'll post it in full) that this behavior wasn't simply a supererogatory act, but the product of a completely different way of looking at the world; one in which there's noi room for 'chullin'. When one sees God in every part of creation, then even the mundane realm of unsanctified food betrays God's Presence, and one must act accordingly. Even if one does not live in that state of consciousness year-round, we hope that during the 10 days of repentance, God is 'close' (kir'uhu behyoto karov) on the brain a bit more, and we are forced to evaluate the most minor of our actions by His Light (ori - is Rosh Hashana, ve-hamevin yavin, ve-acamo"l).

The impulse toward chumra during the 10 Days of Repentance must be seen in this regard. It's not about trying to make up for lost time, or about living according to some ideal for a temporary period, definitely not about trying to convince ourselves that this is the 'real' us, and most certainly not about trying to dupe ourselves, our firends or God. We're not that stupid, especially God.

The beloved Yerushalmi that calls the one who performs uncommanded a hedyot is making exactly this point. A hedyot is someone who is unspecial, regular, average. Behaving as though you live within a particular state of consciuousness without actually being there only calls attention to your mediocrity and misplaced righteousness. It's like a civilian Kohen dressing in the High Priest's garb; who do you think you're fooling, idiot?

May we be inspired to truly attain a more Godly worldview, to look at the world with God-colored glasses, as my friend Steg says, and allow that to be reflected in our behavior without contrived temporary norms.

Gmar Chatima Tova.
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