The struggle of the human heart with God’s Gamble
The uniqueness of the Jews is that God ties himself to history– not just the history of the Jews, but by virtue of them, the history of all humanity. A friend calls this ‘bizarre.’ It makes religion existential, and this worldly– religion ceases being ontological, and other worldly. For the Jews, ultimate things have to be found in the passing, or lost, forever.. For most religions, the passing had been regarded with suspicion as unreal, or a lesser kind of reality; to attach oneself to the unreality, or the relative reality, of the passing is to look for happiness, and meaning, where they cannot be found. It is to bind oneself to illusion.
To risk losing the ultimate in the passing is a Reversal of what many religions regard as ‘spiritual.’ This is why the heart is so central, and different, in Judaism. The human heart is the vehicle of that risk. It is the heart that ‘tests’ the eternal in time, submitting to its own testing through the exactions of time. What heart stands or falls? Is this heart shallow or deep?
The bet that God made with the Adversary at the start of the Jewish journey — in the Book of Job — is gambling on the outcome of the entire stretch of human history= that humanity will come through. The human heart will rise to the challenge put upon it by existence; the Evil One; and God.
This three-cornered pressure is always with the heart. The Jews have a term in Hebrew for this world, in its historical ‘long march’, as the existential arena of spiritual test= ‘Nisayon.’
God said to Abraham, ‘come out’, and this means, emerge from the Great Round of the Whole. This is where the ‘personal God’ begins. The Daemonic is the personal summons to a personal heart. The heart is called into the world as the ‘fire pit’ of the personal God. No attitude of mind can prevent the heart getting burnt. The Daemonic is a fate from which there is no escape, material or spiritual.
The other importance of the Jews is that they resisted what God put upon them. Their very name declares this. Jacob is the father of all those who struggle against God..
God accepts our resistance, since it produces a wrestling with and searching out of ‘the deep things of God and the deep things of humanity’ that comes to the heart in no other way. Blood, sweat, and tears, deepens the heart.
What we resist has to be delved for what truth is in its heart. The Lie, if struggled with, leads to the Truth the heart stands on.
If the passing cannot become the dwelling of the ultimate, then the gamble is forfeit and all is lost. There is no ultimate to fall back upon, and into which to retreat. If the passing proves unable to lift the weight and carry the load of the eternal, through the contending and deeds of the human heart, then everything ends not with a bang but a whimper.. This is the unbelievable burden on the heart.
The ‘load’ that God puts on the Jews, by asking them to have a heart in the three-fold situation into which they are thrown, is very heavy. This is different from what God asks of other peoples. God asks something new, and specific, of the Jews in becoming ‘God’s chosen.’ Chosen for what? Chosen to show all mankind what it means to have a heart, a heart deep, true, tested and proved, in the arena hardest to endure.
The reason this burden was put upon the Jews did not become immediately apparent. It would only become clearer far down the line..
What is immediately apparent is that fidelity to the path down which God is leading the Jews will be a rocky ride. It asks of the human something peculiarly difficult.
What is that weight of heart so hard to pick up?
What is that burden of heart so hard to carry?
The load put upon the Jewish shoulders and back, which really means a burden whose weight falls directly on the heart, is to contest this world for redemption.
What is the weight we can no longer lift?
What is the burden we can no longer carry?
Can we lift the weight again?
Can we carry the burden again?
None of us knows the mystery of the heart, which assumes in the deeps the staking of the ultimate to the passing.
Yet we assumed it, and though we buckled and fell, we persisted, after a fashion..
Such is the story of the Jews, and by virtue of them, the story of humanity.
It is about whether we will use the heart, in an existential cauldron, in this world, in the whole span of history.
Will we lift the weight, will we carry the burden, of staking the heart to what is at stake in what is passing?