My Body is an Ark
My body is an Ark. I am holding in the Divine, and I am keeping out the Chaos.
The תבה (tey-vah, vessel that Noah built, often translated as “ark”) floated alone in the vastness of the water. As the portholes in the sky and the sea opened up, the תהו ובוהו (tohu va-vohu, Chaos) flooded in, and the only barriers left that kept it out were the sides of Noah’s תבה. Chaos surrounded, water flowed in from beyond the skies and the atmosphere and the sea and below the sea. Suddenly the only membrane keeping the Order in and the Chaos out was Noah and his ark. Inside this warm, musty, animal-smelling sanctuary floated all the sparks of life that were left in the world. The תבה kept it safe.
It is so hard to look at our own bodies with kindness. To see in our physical manifestation pure, unadulterated Good, to see deep within the flesh and the veins and the cartilage a miracle, and a house of Divinity. To look at our skin, to see it holding in universes, holding in Forever and Nothingness. To look at our wrinkles, our love handles, our knobbly knees, our skin disease, our brittle bones, our varicose veins as the תבה that holds in God and holds out Chaos. We are Good for just existing. There is Chaos swimming around us, and there is Holiness inside. How can we do anything but look upon our תבה with kindness? It is doing so much work.
וַיִּבְרָא אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאָדָם בְּצַלְמוֹ, בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים בָּרָא אֹתוֹ: זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה, בָּרָא אֹתָם.
And God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. B’reishit, 1:27
I stand in the ocean, my feet a little too cold to be considered comfortable. I stand in the ocean, and the tide rushes up to me, up my ankles, my shins, my calves. It rushes back, and I’m left standing, breathing, waiting for the next rush. My breath starts to sync with the sounds of the waves, and the tide as it rushes back to me. I’m standing in the Atlantic Ocean, in Revere, Massachusetts, after one of the hardest emotional weeks of my life. I’m standing in the ocean, hearing what everyone keeps saying about “ride the wave,” and “emotions are like the tide.” I am standing in the ocean, I made it to Revere to the Atlantic to this moment. I say a blessing. I realize that if I am created in God’s image, and if my emotions are like waves, and I see the Source in nature, then I am like the ocean. I bless the Ocean, my Creator, and myself.
ברוך אתה ה׳ אלוהינו מלך העלום שעשני בצלמו.
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Haolam, she’asani be’tzalmo
Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who made me in God’s image.
Blessed are you God who lets my emotions roll through me, who created high tide, low tide, and the waves between.
בתובו מחדש בכל יום תמיד מעשה ברישית
B’tuvo m’chadesh b’chol yom tamid ma’aseh b’reishit
Every day the work of Creation is renewed
Every day there is a new start. There is another chance to be kind to ourselves, to each other. To be slow, to go slow. To listen, to listen to our bodies and give them what they need. Every day, Creation is renewed. Every day we can co-create, create the world worth living in. If we are created in God’s image, and inside the Arks of our chest dwells Divinity, we earned another shot at a new day.
ברוך אתה ה’ אלהינו רוח העולם עושה מעשה בראשית
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Force of the Universe, maker of the works of Creation.
It is easy to teach that we need to hold each other in love, to understand we all reflect back a spark of the Divine, that we are all struggling to make sense of everything that pretty much never makes sense.
We should all be more awesome to each other, because it’s confusing to be a person sometimes.
For many of us, learning to hold ourselves in that same kindness is the real struggle. It is often so much easier to see the humanity in someone else, and forget that you are also riding the wave. Emotions flow through us, and it is our responsibility not to try to damn the ocean, to catch the tide, to ignore its’ undulations. We are created in God’s image. We feel like the ocean.