Guide for the Perplexed

 The tradition of my Fathers is an acceptance of a pre-existent reality. It may be hidden, but even obscured it is mysteriously active. The Thirty Six Righteous Ones opened my heart again. Then I realized I had been practicing all this time the acceptance that consciousness comes to us and that the reality beyond reality is the perimeter beyond which we cannot go. Except to live as a Righteous One.

sofer restoring Torah scrollGeographica esoterica: A philosopher says that artistic gifts sometimes can transform anguish, the pain of existence, into a valuable experience. I hope so.This philosopher says that as long as mankind recklessly proceeds in the fateful delusion that it is destined for triumph, nothing essential can change.

 A little more than three years ago my daughter died on a cold January day and grief covered my soul in chill and bitterness. Plagued with a chronic disabling condition, despondent at the loss of an only child, troubled by the prospect of poverty ahead, melancholic at the core, more often than not I felt suicidal.  I knew I was not destined for triumph, that the inexorable brewed no solace where jubilation was concerned. Shortly after her death, an astrologer I knew came to our town and I went to see her more for consolation than for illumination. At the end of her session she said, “Be patient and wait. You have one more task to do, one more series of works.”

Nothing happened. I did not suicide, although the inclination accompanied me daily. No unique inspiration came my way for three years, years of constant work with its own small revelations.I learned to carry the wound of my loss.

 And then, while working on a painting recently. I thought of the story of the 36 Righteous Ones, the lamedvovniks. My grandfather King David had spoken to me of the tzadikim nistarim, the hidden ones, when I was a child.

 It is said, that there are thirty-six righteous ones in the world at any one time, and they are hidden, even to themselves, and were even one to disappear then the world would come to an end.

The idea of the 36 Righteous People has a beautiful implication  Since their special gift is hidden, from one another and themselves, anyone you meet could be one of them and each person encountered needs to be treated as though they were a lamed vov.

It also implies a tremendum et fascinans; a fearful, fascinating mystery, one that fills us with awe, and terror too. After all, it takes the eternal one a thousand years to warm the frozen soul of a righteous one in heaven: frozen from the suffering that soul took upon itself in the world of men.

What happens when there is less than thirty.six?

After a few moments of consideration I felt that the Story of the lamedvovniks might lead me to the world beyond the world and that I might construct the revelation in pictorial terms. It had been done before. The various examples exist.

A single niggun, ( a wordless song) , sung by my grandfather to put me asleep,  carries more emotional weight and profound connection to my identity than anything else I  might encounter in this life.

 The Story of the Lamed vavniks attaches me to my destiny more spiritually.

Then there are the aleph-bet, the little black letters running across the parchments raised ever so slightly, as though bubbling up from the parchment itself. These letters antecede the creation. Consciousness begins with them. They are connective to the mysteries of Holiness. They themselves are Holy. They connect us with the Divine.

A kabbalist text speaks of one letter missing from our present aleph-bet which will only be revealed in the future. The writer explains that our deficiencies in this world are mysteriously connected to this missing, unimaginable consonant, whose sound will create undreamed of words and worlds transforming repression into loving.

And then there sits fear and exile, memory and loss of memory, and the decay of civilizations.

Each of these things, I thought, might gain me access.


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