Saturday night the rabbi slept early
Our sages tell us that we are meant to live as if there is an eye that sees, an ear that hears, and a book that keeps track of all we do. You might think this is enough to drive us to paranoia! In fact, living one’s life as if someone is always watching even our most secretive acts can lead to a more conscious, more intentional existence.
Case in point: a few weeks ago I attended a Saturday night community jazz concert. Shabbat had been a busy one, including a Friday night program, a Shabbat morning bar mitzvah, a lecture after lunch, and a Shabbat afternoon bat mitzvah. Needless to say, I had no Shabbat nap. I settled into the comfortable auditorium seat, the lights were dimmed, and the mellow saxophone began to sing. You can guess what happened next.
That’s right, I fell asleep.
A week later, I had a meeting at our community campus. A colleague said to me, “I heard you are not much of a jazz fan.” “What do you mean?” “I heard you fell asleep!” Ouch. A few days later, while shopping at Fairway, I saw someone from the community I hadn’t seen in a while. “When was the last time we saw each other?” “Actually,” he answered, “I saw you at the jazz concert. You must have been pretty tired.” Double ouch! I actually enjoy jazz; if I ever need some help falling asleep, it’s the Carpenters, John Denver or jazz that does the trick. But one short shloof, induced by exhaustion, mood lighting and music, and I am the talk of the town!
Okay, so I exaggerate a bit to make my point. I understand that I live in a fishbowl, as do many public figures and leaders. The point our sages make, however, is that we should all feel that we are living in a fishbowl, and guard our words and deeds accordingly. Every action, reaction or inaction can be understood as intentional, so we must live intentionally. Every action, reaction or inaction can be understood as a conscious choice, so we must live consciously. In doing so, perhaps we save ourselves a bit of shame, a bit of guilt, a bit of regret, and a bit of being a topic of other people’s conversations!
Rabbi Craig Scheff
Thank you Rabbi for this teaching.
One evening after Hebrew school about a month or so ago Jake came home and told me that you told him and Riley of the intention that we should live our lives as if there was an eye that sees all that we do. We were both very taken by this teaching and had a very interesting conversation.
What I have come to realize is that for me, in order not to end up in a state of paranoia, that this eye and this ear and what is finally written in this book, looks with compassion, hears with love and writes with some understanding of what its like to be human.
Other traditions speak of cultivating an inner awareness or mindfulness. I think in the end an inner eye or an outer eye, bring us ultimately to the same place, the present moment, a blessing that I experience only from time to time.