The Jewish mystical tradition asks: How was it possible for God to create the universe if God’s presence encompasses everything. The Kabbalah’s answer is that God had to contract — a process called Tzimtzum — to make room for the universe.
God’s Tzimtzum couldn’t be sustained indefinitely. Once creation had occurred, there was a huge explosion known as the shattering of the vessels, sending sparks of holiness into the universe.
These days, we are all doing Tzimtzum. Our lives have contracted. We limit ourselves to our homes. Washing our hands and disinfecting, wearing gloves and masks. Trying to protect ourselves and others in the face of the virus.
I am struck by the fact that like God’s Tzimtzum, our own contraction has brought us a renewed ability to see and appreciate the sparks of holiness that are all around us.
We are reminded of the interconnectedness of the world; how what we do affects others—even people on the other side of the globe. Like the astronauts who marveled at seeing the earth from space and sensed the unity of all humanity, we too can feel it. We are all in this together--the differences between us no longer seem to matter very much.
The virus has also taught us not to take the beauty of nature for granted. I came home from a frustrating day last week to the sight of our daffodils in bloom. It was so beautiful, my mood shifted, and my spirits soared.
Finally, the holiest spark of all — the spark of human kindness. Despite our fears and anxieties, COVID-19 has brought out the best in so many of us. People have been calling, emailing and texting me to ask me how they can help someone else. Is there someone who is shut in at home who I can call? Is there someone that I can shop for? Again, and again, people are looking beyond themselves and their own difficulties, finding ways to help others
Passover is coming. Spring will lead to summer. God willing, things will get better and life will return to some semblance of normalcy. Until then, we can stay home wash our hands, love our families, stay connected to our friends and community, help each other cope, and cultivate the sparks of holiness shining in viral darkness around us.
Rabbi Andrew Warmflash leads the Hewlett-East Rockaway Jewish Centre.