Life is, at best, partial in the fulfillment it offers. It is, however, all too true that the enemy of the good is the best. The key to spiritual health and growth is the ability to live fully in even one moment of goodness, transforming it from a passing flash to a guiding light.
The text that most stunningly captures this notion is a strange symbolic conversation between God and his angels recorded in Berachot 20b. “Why,” the angels ask of God, “do you accord the people of Israel your favor even when they are not deserving?” God responds, “How can I not? After all, in my Torah it says, ‘And you shall eat, be satisfied and give blessing.’ And the children of Israel give blessing even if they have only eaten an ‘olives worth’ of food.”
The text refers to the biblical verse which seems to indicate that one is only required to give blessing in thanks for food if one is fully satisfied. The simple rationale is that one can only give thanks if one is full. It is hard to experience blessing in a way that moves you to give thanks when you are still hungry. Nonetheless, continues the Talmudic passage, the children of Israel give blessing over food even when they are not satisfied, even when they have only eaten an olives worth.
Mystical master Aaron of Karlin unpacks the powerful wisdom of the text. What the text suggests is that if you wait to be satisfied, to be ful-filled (kedai Seviah) you will never be able to give blessing; you will never experience your life as blessing. Spiritual greatness is about being able to experience blessing even when we only have an olives worth of fulfillment, even when we are still hungry. The feeling of blessing emerges from the ability to experience the fullness of divine reality in every fractal of goodness. [....]
Two spiritual assumptions underlie this path.
- In every person is a treasured touch of divinity. Through feeling that touch I can grasp the all. For, like a holograph, the All inheres in every part. The sliver of divinity which resides in the frail vulnerable human being is no less than the portal to eternity.
- I can only ultimately hold what I am able to give up. By giving up the image of the ultimate I am able to find the ultimate, the sublime, in the imperfection of the mundane.
Biblical thinking affirms this way: to experience wonder and core certainty of being in the fleeting, redeemed moments that arise even in a starkly unredeemed world.