It is Valentine’s Day, and sometime between wiping little bums, folding infinite heaps of laundry, and scraping another uneaten peanut butter sandwich into the compost, my husband and I might exchange a token of our affection. We each bought the other socks. The tasks of living are so endless it is easy to forget we are bonded in love. But it is the underlying love that makes these daily indignities bearable.
Living daily in the boundaries of our mundane world, it can also be easy to lose one’s concept of G-d. Getting the oil changed and fixing the leaky roof don’t exactly fill the despairing with hope and the fearful with courage. This must be why so many of us encounter G-d in a blazing sunset, harvest moon, or soaring notes of a choir - undeniable reminders that there is more to life. This past year, our lives have become even more finite. We have been prevented from many of the experiences that seek to usher finite humans into the presence of the infinite and awesome.
During these hamster wheel days, I think about the many concepts of G-d in Judaism that implore us to put G-d in the commonplace. Consider the two types of interactions described by Martin Buber’s “I Thou” philosophy. My simple understanding is I-It relationships are transactional, utilitarian- the Uber ride of human interaction. In the I-Thou encounter, we relate to each other as authentic beings, without expectation, judgement, or objectification. While our lives are understandably full of I-It encounters, imagine the transformational power of giving more people the radical generosity of heart and mind Buber described.
When we enter the Temple sanctuary on Shabbat, the ner tamid reminds us that we are attempting to encounter G-d. While we are away from the Temple for a while longer, join me in applying the same audaciousness to our everyday encounters. Granting every person the dignity and sanctity of Thou is the beating heart of the entire Jewish enterprise. I’ll start in my home and surrender to listen and hear the unique and divine hearts of my family members... most likely while I’m folding socks.