Friday Candle Lighting: 6:40 pm
Shabbat Ends: 7:27 pm
Not Written In Stone
“(And the L-rd your G-d will circumcise) your heart and the heart of…” (30:6)
Don’t you sometimes feel like your life is written in stone? That you can’t change? Sometimes we want to go back to a more innocent time, a time when we were pure and our hearts unsullied. But we feel we can’t break the mold we’re stuck in. We’ve created a treadmill from past bad decisions, and now we seem doomed to run like a rat round and round, visiting and re-visiting all the mistakes we’ve ever made.
Hopelessness is the feeling that things are forever written in stone.
When the world came into being, it first existed as primordial matter without form: “Darkness on the face of the deep, and the Divine Presence hovering on the face of the water.” The world was then a world of water, the ultimate symbol of matter without form. Water flows where it may, taking any shape at all, waiting for the vessel that holds it to give it shape, to give it true purpose.
There are times when we lose contact with our true purpose. Times when the form that we have made for ourselves is not what the Creator intended. We have become sealed and unresponsive to spiritual reality. In Hebrew this is called tuma, impurity. Impurity means to be cut off from the Source. To be “sealed”. The landscape of that sealed existence is a world of hopelessness.
If only we could return to a world where things were not written in stone, where we could refashion ourselves in the form that the Creator intended for us!
The waters of the mikveh are like an amniotic world where existence has no shape, like a world of formless matter yet to be defined. When we enter the waters of the mikveh we regress to an earlier stage of creation, to that primordial world before definition and form. And in that water we are re-formed, as new.
The word mikveh comes from the same root as the word tikveh — “hope”. The essence of hope is that we are not bounded and trapped by our present reality. Hope says that we can connect to that which is outside and beyond ourselves — to the Source. Every mikveh is like a little sea. The gematria of yam (sea) is 50. The number 50 represents the transcendent. It represents the gateway to that which is “beyond”.
This is the essence of purity, of taharah. Life is not written in stone. Hope tells us that we can return to the world of water to be become purified. This is the essence of hope: That things can be re-made, that we can change ourselves, that we can break the treadmill. The mikveh tells us that we can go back to the world of water, to that world of pure matter. The mikveh tells us that we can regress to a world before form, that we can re-make ourselves and become pure.
The astrological sign of the month of Elul is “Betula” — the Maiden — the essence of purity. Betula is a water sign. The sign of the Hope.
“Your heart and the heart of…”
The first letters of this verse spell “Elul”, the month of teshuva, in which we can return to a state of unsullied purity. And the last letters spell tichatev — “You will be written” — to hint that through teshuva – a return to pristine selves — may we be written and sealed for the good!