Connecting With Others

Prayers can help repair the world.

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Unlocking the Divine Light

Luria, a mystic, believed that prayer (like other mitzvot) unlocks the Divine light in our broken world and reunites it with its Divine Source. The author of The Well of Living Waters argues that just as the amidah must begin silently and then become loud in order to achieve tikkun, so too Joseph’s recognition of his brothers must unfold gradually, from hidden and stifled to public and open. As this recognition grows, so does its expression in Joseph’s cries, until full tikkun and yichud—repair and reunification—are achieved.

We can learn from the tikkun in Joseph’s relationship with his family that sometimes the commitment to pursue justice also needs to unfold within us in stages. Justice is—or would be—the ultimate result of a full recognition of our common humanity with others, and thus, our responsibility for others. That recognition often begins quietly within our consciousness: stirred by an encounter with another person, it may then be unlocked or revealed to us through prayer. Unsettled, we may seek to stifle this growing knowledge because of its profound implications. Some time may pass before our changes in consciousness lead to changes in our outward behavior.

Yet we are obligated to emerge eventually from our silence; to cry out against injustice, and take action. Just as the public repetition of the amidah must follow its silent recitation, external advocacy and action are the necessary consequences of our internal awakening. Our actions can then lead to the repair of brokenness, to the release of hidden Divine light and to a closer unity between this world and its Divine ideal.

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Guy Izhak Austrian

Guy Izhak Austrian is a community organizer and rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary.