Many of my favorite television memories from the 70’s come from the early Sesame Street shows. I remember one episode where Grover is straining to hold a really big, heavy brick with the word “HELP” carved into it. As he moans and groans trying not to drop the brick, he keeps yelling, “Help! Help!”
The great trickster Ernie walks up and says, “Oh, Grover, you need some help? I’ve got some help for you, hold on just a minute.” He bends down and picks up another big heavy brick, also with the word “HELP” carved into it, and piles it on top of the first brick, increasing his burden.
“Help! Help!” Grover yells louder. “Oh, you want more help??” says Ernie. Ernie then picks up yet another big heavy “HELP” brick and piles it on top of the two that Grover is already holding.
This goes on a few more times- Grover yelling help and Ernie just making it worse and worse by piling on more and more HELP bricks. Finally, Grover just screams and falls backward, all the bricks falling on top of him. Ingenious.
My three-year-old daughter likes to help a lot. She is always asking, “Can I help?” Sometimes she “helps” me cook in the kitchen. The “help” usually entails holding my wrist while I stir something in a hot pan, or holding my arm while I lift something much too heavy and dangerous for her to lift.
Actually, everything we do is just like that. We go through motions, thinking “I am doing such-and-such,” but actually the act is being done by the All and we are only apparently doing it. It’s like when a bunch of guys are lifting some big heavy couch and you put your hands underneath to appear as if you are helping, but you are actually doing nothing. That’s our true situation. When you turn on the car, is it the key that is doing the job? Is it the starter? Is it the spark plug? There is no single thing doing anything; everything is doing everything all the time.
Yet you might think, “I am doing it”. You might take the burden of being the Doer onto yourself. Like my daughter, “you” are doing nothing, because there is no separate “you” as the Doer. But like Grover, you might strain and moan under the burden of life, yelling, “Help! Help!” And as long as you see yourself as the Doer, any help you get is like Ernie’s help. You don’t need that kind of help! You just need to drop the burden.
But you can’t “try” to drop the burden. That’s just more burden! That’s Ernie’s kind of help. The “me” that tries to drop the burden is itself the burden.
To drop the burden, you just need to see that you are straining unnecessarily. If you can see it, you spontaneously stop doing it. Seeing that the trying is itself a kind of straining, you just stop. You just accept everything, and you are free. Don’t “try” to get rid of anything, don’t “try” to change anything; that changes everything!
Rather than trying to escape the experience you are having in this moment, draw close to it. Your willingness to be with What Is becomes your avodah- your Divine service. It becomes your offering on the altar of the present moment.
The word for “offering”, in the sense of ritual sacrifice, is korban- from the root koof-reish-bet which means to “draw close”. This week’s reading says that in bringing a korban offering, one should bring it “el petakh ohel mo’ed- to the opening of the Tent of Meeting- yakriv oto lirtzono- bring it willingly.”
The “Tent of Meeting” is the place we meet Reality. Where is that? It is always only where you are. You can’t “go” to the Tent of Meeting because you are already here! But you can come close to where you already are with willingness- “yakriv oto lirtzono- draw close willingly.” Draw your attention willingly into the fullness of this moment. Don’t hold it as a burden that you need to change or control; offer yourself to it. That is the key.
There is a hint of this also in the next verse- “v’samakh yado el rosh ha’olah- one should lean one’s hand on the head of the burnt offering.” Leaning your hand on the head of something is the exact opposite of carrying a burden. To carry a burden you have to put your hands under the bottom and hold it up. Here it says to lean your hand on its head. In other words, rest upon your offering. Let your awareness simply dwell with Reality as it is appearing now. In this way, it is “burnt up”- meaning, the energy that has become trapped in some burdensome emotion- resentment, anger, anxiety, whatever, gets freed up and reunited with your awareness that is accepting and embracing it. Reality that is One becomes One.
This is in fact the call from everything in every moment: offer up the burden of your separate self by embracing what is. As it says in the first verse of this parshah, “Vayikra el Moshe- Called to Moses”. It doesn’t say who called to Moses, it just says “called”. The last letter of vayikra, “called”, is the letter Alef which has the numerical value of one, and is a symbol of the Divine One. This letter Alef is written smaller than all the other letters, hinting that the “Oneness” is hidden within everything, calling to us from everything, nudging us to see the hidden Oneness. Let go of your burden. Everything is really just the Blessed Holy One!
This Shabbos may we all hear the Divine call ever more deeply. May our hearing evoke the lightness and aliveness from which springs the waters of love and playfulness, and may we play in the Ocean of the Oneness together. Good Shabbos!!!