Friday, August 27, 2010

The Passion of Israel's God

The very nice folks at Parabola Magazine, a quarterly journal devoted to the thematic

[God seeks Man - the Dura Europos Synagogue]

exploration of the world's spiritual and mythic traditions, have just published an article by me in their Fall issue.

Entitled A Song of Desire: the Yearnings of Israel's God, it begins like this:

What is desire (Heb. Ta’eiv; Ta’avah; Teiavon), and what is its role in the cosmos? Desire is the craving to fill an absence, and once possessed, to cling to that which fulfills. Western thought sees desire as driving the world. It is, the Greeks taught, the appetitive nature of the soul that compels motion. And since at least Plato, desire has also been considered a problem to be managed. Aristotle regarded it to be the irrational part of the soul, an impulse to be curbed by the control of reason.[i]

But what if the world is not merely filled with desire? What if the world is desire? In some Eastern thought, desire tethered to ignorance is the world, and as such it is the flywheel that perpetuates suffering.
[ii] Jews, too hold that the universe is made up of longing, but in the Hebrew imagination, desire is lyric, not dirge. It is the music of creation, and longing the resonant instrument that reveals the meaning of the cosmos. This secret truth is concealed in the very first word of the Hebrew Bible, BeRESHIT, the word for “creation” itself. The secret is uncovered by re-arranging its six Hebrew letters. Doing this discloses that creation is a SHIR Ta’EiV, a “song of desire” (Zohar Hadash 5b-6a). Creation is one great ballad of longing, and God is the One who sings this lyric in endless variations.....

To read the rest of the article, you can purchase the Fall 2010 "Desire" issue of Parabola at your local Barnes and Noble, or by going directly to http://www.parabola.org/.

[i] W.L. Reese, Dictionary of Philosophy & Religion (Sussex: Humanities Press, 1980), 22.

[ii] Robert E. Van Voorst, ed., Anthology of Asian Scriptures (Belmont: Wadsworth), 88-90.


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