Jewish Potentiality- Tetsaveh, 5783
We often speak about the collective unconscious. But how about our collective consciousness?
We are all interconnected by shared values such as compassion, generosity, and kindness. These values are greater than ourselves, and we are all naturally attracted to them.
We live in an era where the world political climate and ecological issues often make us fear for our collective future. Raising collective awareness feels particularly urgent.
In his commentary on Parashat Tetsaveh, the Meor Einayim suggests a way to do exactly that.
What is Collective Awareness
The concept of collective consciousness was first coined by French Sociologist Emil Durkheim at the beginning of the twentieth century, to explain shared values in a given society.
Is it a coincidence that Durkheim was Jewish, and the son of a rabbi?
The sense of a shared consciousness is at the heart of Judaism, and beyond: the ethical values inscribed in the “Ten Commandments” are today part of the collective awareness of most human cultures.
When we embody values such as truth, kindness or compassion, we feel a greater sense of connection -with others, with the world, and with the sacredness of life.
Losing the sense of collective awareness, however, can create disharmony, judgment, and hostility.
And when the collective consciousness itself becomes hypnotized by fanatic discourses, societal violence can arise without warning.
The story of Purim, one man trying to destroy a people just because they were different, is unfortunately a familiar theme in Human History.
Why is it that we feel such a sense of discomfort when we do not follow the values of collective consciousness? Maybe it is more than a societal phenomenon.
From a Jewish spiritual perspective, what the Meor Einayim calls “collective awareness” as an overarching level englobing our individual awareness (da’at), is an integral part of our nature.
“God is one”, he often reminds us, and “Torah”, God’s emanation, “and Israel, are one”. Whether we are aware of it or not, our psyche (our soul) is constantly looking for unification.
This may be the underlying current of what propels us on a spiritual path. The deep awareness inside of us doesn't enjoy being disconnected. It wants to be One again (with Life, with God, with nature, with others).
When we separate from each other, we go against our own spiritual nature.
Embodying the ethical values that make the fabric of our collective awareness in everyday life represents our unification.
The Meor Einayim on Collective awareness
How can we access our collective awareness?
For the Meor Einayim, our collective awareness is represented by Moses.
Reading parashat Tetsaveh in the light of the Purim story (they usually fall around the same time each year), he opens by noticing the disappearance of Moses from the story.
Moses’ absence is significant both in the opening line of the parashah (where Moses, curiously, isn’t called by his name), and in the story of Purim (Haman had chosen the date of Adar 7th, the anniversary of Moses’ death, to annihilate the Jews).
Traditionally, commentators on the Megilah Purim evoke the absence of God, who is not mentioned once in the story. Here the Meor Einayim focuses on Moses’ absence.
If Moses, who represents our collective awareness, is absent, this should have made us more vulnerable.
Yet, as we saw in last week’s commentary on Parashat Teruma, the Meor Einayim reminds us that we don’t need anyone’s physical presence to feel connected.
This is both the challenge and the beauty of Judaism, as a religion that invites us to grow beyond idolatry: to resist the need to hold on to something physical.
Just like in the story of Purim, the Meor Einayim turns the challenge up around its head:
Moses’ physical disappearance doesn't mean the disappearance of our collective awareness.
It lives in us, and it lives in the wisdom of torah:
“Each of us attains what we do in accord with our own mind and the awareness, the aspect of Moses, that we have. That is the "Moses" that was hidden in the Torah. “
The same way we can connect to God, by emulating Divine qualities and embodying ethical principles in our everyday lives, there is a concrete path to reconnect to our collective awareness
When we follow the Jewish spiritual teachings (such as Torah and Musar), not only do we arouse our own awareness. We tap into a greater energy:
Life energy, the Primordial Energy of Creation contained in the Hebrew letters, and the wisdom of our collective awareness.
While collective awareness can seem like an abstract concept, Tikun Olam: fixing the world, is real.
We can contribute to it, one day at a time, just by connecting our own awareness to the greater awareness, through the very actions of learning wisdom teachings, and embodying universal values such as compassion, generosity, truth and kindness.