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Certainty: A Song of Longing

Marc Gafni » Certainty / Uncertainty » Eros-Ethics-Meaning » Wisdom for Your Week » Certainty: A Song of Longing

The tale below told about Master Levi Isaac of Berdichev appears in Dr. Marc Gafni’s volume Certainty, a companion to the book Uncertainty, neither of which have yet been published in English.*  The tale also appears in the audio course The Erotic and the Holy by Dr. Gafni.

by xedos4 (c) 2011

image by xedos4, used with permission, (c) 2011.


It is the time of the third Shabbath Meal.
The master Levi Isaac of Berdichev –
holiest teacher –  rises to speak.
He wants to explain  to his disciples
Not the wonder of creation,
Or the mystery of the chariot,
But merely that God is
the certainty of the universe.
And that therefore
Each one of our lives

He begins his discourse
with an elegant teaching from the Talmud
demonstrating the reality of God.
“Do you understand?” – he queries.
“No” they answer…heads hanging.

He then takes them on a dance of light,
Intricately weaving the mysteries of the Zohar
Which illuminate  God’ s presence in the world.
“Do you understand?” – he queries.
“No” they answer…. heads hanging.

In desperation he begins to tell stories,
Tales revealing great mysteries.
“Now do you understand?” –he queries.
“No” they answer, heads still hanging.

So he becomes quiet
And begins to sing
A melody of yearning,
Of longing,
Of pining.

For a few moments he sings alone,
Then one and then another
Til they became one voice,

The Rebbe did not need to ask.

Their heads raised.
They understood.

After all the frustration of not understanding,
A song of yearning,
And then they knew.

*Both the previously unreleased English versions of the books Certainty and Uncertainty will appear in 2014 as a two-volume set entitled Integral Religion: Certainty and Uncertainty.

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