Aryeh Ben David

Shavuot – the intimacy of ‘almost’

We usually think of intimacy as oneness. The Torah says “Adam yada (knew) Eve”. Intimacy, oneness, and knowing seem to go together.

Yet there is also an intimacy of ‘almost’, of not quite oneness and knowing. An intimacy of mystery. An intimacy when reaching and seeking yields more reaching and seeking.

An intimacy of knowing that the other can never be fully known.

The Talmud tells us that the Tablets were 6 handbreadths wide. Moshe held 2. God held 2. And 2 were in-between. A moment of ‘almost’ touching. This exemplifies our relationship with God. We never get there, we never know.

It is hard to live with ‘almost’. We want to understand, master, and control. We want to possess, dominate, govern, and direct.

“Almost” is very humbling. I can’t quite understand or control; I don’t possess or direct.

My kids ask me – “Abba, how do you know there is a God? How do you know what is true?”

It is humbling and sometimes disappointing to respond, “I don’t know. I live in ‘almost’.

There are many people out there, in all religions, that seem to know. They know God, know what God wants, and even know why God does things.

Part of me is quite envious. But part of me is astounded! I don’t even fully understand and know myself – my subconscious is a mystery, occasionally revealing itself.

A God that can be known is not a God worth knowing.

It is a God bereft of mystery.

But ‘not knowing’, being in a state of ‘almost’, is not a reason to give up and certainly not grounds for existential despair.

Soon we will celebrate Shavuot, a breakthrough between heaven and earth, a moment of revelation, a moment of ‘almost’.

For me, I will also be celebrating the vast eternal mystery of knowing that there is still so much to be revealed.

Shavuot. Two handbreadths between.

Touching and not touching.


About the Author
Aryeh Ben David founded Ayeka: Center for Soulful Education in 2008. Ayeka educates rabbis, teachers, and professionals to bring Jewish wisdom from our minds to our hearts to our souls and into our lives. He recently published: The Secret of Love - A Glimpse into the Mystical Wisdom of Rav Kook. He lives in Efrat with his wife, Sandra.
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