frost and hirsch, in their book The Shaping of Things to Come, tell of a very interesting hebraic “portrait” of god’s glory.
one of the most wonderful metaphors in jewish mysticism is the rabbinical teaching on the shekinah (“god’s glory”). in the typically playful way jewish theology was presented, the shekinah gains a personality and usually takes the form of a woman. she is metaphorically portrayed as god’s wife, but she is in exile, i.e. god and his glory have been tragically seperated through the fall. the seperation is one of a cosmic crash in which god’s glory was scattered into myriad sparks and caught up in all created matter. the holy sparks are now imprisoned in all things. even the lowest of created things have the holy sparks in them.
the remarkable aspect of this jewish teaching is the view that it is our holy actions — that is, actions filled with holy intent and directed toward god — that actually free the sparks ensnared in all things allowing the exiled shekinah to journey back to her husband, namely, god. god and his glory are joined together again when people act in holiness. says martin buber, “the shekinah is banished into concealment; it lies, tied, at the bottom of every thing, and is redeemed in every thing by man, who, by his own vision or his deed, liberates the thing’s soul.” isaac bashevis singer, the nobel laureate who wrote marvelous novels exploring aspects of jewish mysticism, said that “when man chooses virtue, he stengthens all the dimensions of life. angels… look forward to a man doing a good deed, since this brings joy and strength to the entire world. a good deed helps god and the divine presence to unite. a sin, on the other hand, evokes gloom into all the world.
frost and hirsch go on to say that no one (including the rabbis that taught it) took this literally. i suggest, as i’ve ruminated on it, that it’s almost like viewing a painting in a gallery portaying, in metaphorical image, a deep spiritual and theologal idea. it’s amazing and wonderful that god allows us humans to play a role in releasing god’s glory into creation.
i want to be a spark releaser!