Last week, I accidentally locked myself in the bathroom.
The doorknob had broken a few days before. I went in to use the bathroom, and when I was finished, I realized I couldn’t get out.
I took the screen out of the window, but soon realized that if I tried to squeeze my body through that tiny opening, I would not only be stuck in the bathroom, but stuck halfway though the window. Not a good plan.
I had no regular tools- only a bunch of various pieces of doorknob lying around the bathroom. So, I grabbed a piece of metal and started bashing the doorknob as hard as I could.
That didn’t work.
Only one thing left to do-
Sitting there and looking carefully, I could see something that looked like a lever inside the door hole in which the knob was recessed. I found a metal thing which fit right inside and carefully pushed the lever thing. The doorknob released and it came right open.
It was a good test, and a perfect reminder of the importance of Presence in the midst of the absurdities and challenges of life.
There are three phases for dealing with absurdities and challenges.
This week’s reading, Parshat Tzav, begins with a description of the Olah- the “elevation” offering that the priests are to perform:
“… olah al mokdah… kol halailah ad haboker-
“…the elevation offering should stay on the flame all night until morning.”
If you want to live an “elevated” life, let the "night" of challenges be reminders to remain alert. Keep the "flame burning all night long." This is the first stage.
Then it says the Kohen- the priest- must take the ashes of the offering and remove them to a place outside the camp.
In other words, after you’ve burned through the negativity and come out the other end, completely let go of it. Don’t keep it around by creating mental stories about it; let it out of your space. This is the second stage.
Then it says that the Kohen should kindle wood on the altar in the morning as well. The fire is called:
“… aish tamid- a continual flame- lo tikhbeh- it should never be extinguished.”
In other words, after the challenge is over and you’ve let go of it, you’ve got to still practice being conscious. It doesn’t work very well to get conscious only when things are challenging!
And fortunately, it’s actually pretty easy to stay present in the many uneventful moments that comprise much of our lives- don’t take them for granted! That’s the blessing of the many prayers, sacred phrases and Divine Names you can use to come deeply into Oneness of the present moment, all day long.
In the days of the Baal Shem Tov, it once happened at the conclusion of Yom Kippur that the sky was particularly cloudy. The moon was completely obscured, preventing the Baal Shem from making the blessing on the new moon that's traditionally chanted after Yom Kippur.
The Baal Shem sensed that the welfare of his people somehow depended on his making the Kiddush Levana- the Sanctification of the Moon- that night. Determined, he stood beneath the night sky, concentrating his mind to cause the clouds to disperse, but with no success. He eventually accepted his failure as what needed to be, and retired to his room.
His disciples, however, knew nothing of the Baal Shem’s sadness and had begun to dance around the house in ecstatic celebration. Eventually their revelry burst through the door into the Baal Shem’s room. In their mad ecstasy they took him by the hand and drew him into the dance.
Later the Baal Shem noticed- the sky had cleared and the waxing moon beamed brightly. The Baal Shem made the brakha- the blessing- and averted the danger.
On this Shabbat Tzav, the Sabbath of Connection, may we connect the three phases as the Baal Shem tov did- accepting challenge and even failure when it happens, letting go of negativity and opening to the joy of the Dance, and blessing the holiness of each moment, regardless of whether our fortune is "waxing" or "waning".
Good Shabbos, Hag Purim Samayakh!
3/24/2016 04:59:05 pm
Hag Purim Samayakh! to you and your family Brian. I missed you guys at the celebration.
3/26/2016 04:15:36 pm
Bri, I highly recommend a movie to you/all that this teaching reminded me of: The Pursuit of Happyness. Sometimes being locked in a bathroom is a good thing. Accepting challenge and what appears to be failure really can open one to the Dance. Thanks xo
4/13/2016 03:41:05 pm
Thanks Eric I messed you too!
4/13/2016 10:58:06 am
Brian, just getting around to reading your Tsav drash. My eye was caught by your "headline," since I once got locked in the bathroom too. My story is a bit different, though. The floors in my apartment had been refinished, and I was not fully cognizant that I was having an adverse reaction to the fumes. I was off balance and my mind was fuzzy--I couldn't be present! I went into the bathroom, which was quite small, and the inside knob, which had been loose, came off in my hand. After the initial shock of realizing I was stuck--the door wouldn't open and there was only one small window, which opened onto a two-story drop--I began to panic, feeling trapped and claustrophobic. Then I yelled, "Help, help me!" My acupuncturist neighbor who worked at home heard me and called the police, who quickly got in through a living room window and "saved" me. I realized that my thinking and emotions were being badly affected by the toxic polyurathane fumes, and I quickly got myself out of the house and went to stay with friends while the floor was being sanded and refinished with non-toxic sealer. So this was a different lesson, one that I believe the Ba'al Shem Tov also taught, about surrender and discernment and sweetening--a deepened sense of hash'g'khah pratit, that there is help, there is witness, I'm being held on many levels, of which I'm usually not aware.
4/13/2016 03:39:24 pm
Wow!! Thanks so much for your story Reb Diane- may the space of "bathroom" be one of easeful passage for all! (:
Leave a Reply.