On the phone with Andy - remembering Nine Eleven

Rabbi James Stone Goodman

On the phone with Andy — remembering Nine Eleven

By Rabbi James Stone Goodman

Tzimtzum: the contraction or concealment of God

"I was reading last night about the holy Ari and tzimtzum," Andy said.

God is withdrawing. It's a tzimtzum, for sure. I knew it, Andy said.

It's God in conflict with Itself, Andy said. Tzimtzum. God withdraws in the sense that God is still surrounding, but there are places where God isn't, in an inner way, like a bagel.

This was Andy's new take on tzimtzum, Andy's chidush [angle].

If you write about this, Andy said, make sure you mention the bagel. There's this space where God is not, deep in the center, where God allows us to free-fall. What do we do?

Hakadosh Barukh Hu [the Holy Blessed One] is withdrawing, Andy said, but the Shekhinah [the inner Presence] is entirely accessible. But She is the subtext. The Shekhinah. She's subtle. We have not made her overt. Except for Shabbes. Except for the occasional transcendent drop-dead experience of holiness.

Maybe that is what happened to us at shul the Shabbat after nine eleven, I said, we went to the center where it was empty but quiet, and because when we sat in the center emptiness, we knew that all around us, or perhaps underneath us, in the deep story, or around us in your imagery, was God. Still. Waiting.

When we finished praying, everyone just sat there. No one moved. It felt good there, after such a week. The week of nine eleven.

God is waiting for us to redeem the world, Andy said. I am always waiting, God says.

That's what happened at shul that Shabbes, I said, for sure, the Shekhinah, that which was hidden become known, that which was subtle, unloosed. Covert became overt.

You know what Andy? That's how we will remember it, with silence.

We went to the center and I think we were not afraid. We went to the center, where even if God had accomplished a tzimtzum there, a contraction, an emptiness, it was quiet, comforting strangely comforting, was it because it was the center or was it because we had all arrived there together?

The Shekhinah is always entirely accessible, said Andy. On Shabbat she comes out of hiding, and that is why we welcome her so eagerly.

It happens, in spite of ourselves, and no one has the power to interrupt the flow, the process. It happened to us the Shabbat after nine eleven, shabbat Nitzvaim, we were all standing there that day, silent, and we all sat there when the prayers were over, and we sat there looking inward, and we sat there looking into the center of this disaster where God had exited, but we felt the presence everywhere around us, underneath us, enveloping us, waiting, waiting.

That's how we will remember, said Andy, we will be waiting, at the center, in our silence.

I am always waiting, God says.

We are waiting with you.