So, what happens when we do accountings of our lives? What do we most often notice? The triumphs of course…but, admittedly, also the failures. In fact, often times we focus more on the failures while our triumphs fade into the background. There is a term for this I heard from Dennis Prager – The Missing Tile Syndrome. Imagine, you gaze up at an elaborately tiled ceiling. And in the midst of this beautiful spread of color and artistry there is a gap, a tile missing. All too often, our eyes will be drawn to rest upon that one glaring absence. Never mind the myriad and magnificent tiles that are there...we are drawn to the single one that is not. It is an unfortunate fact of human observation - to notice the break in a pattern; the presence of an absence.
And though a ceiling tile may be replaced, there are gaps in our lives that can never be filled. So what do we do with these missing pieces? We have a few choices – one, to gripe and groan, or seep in shame over all we aren't. Another, perhaps more enlightened, approach – to try our darndest to avoid the imperfection. And yet, avoidance, as helpful as it may be in the short term, in the long run proves untenable. Our repressed frustrations explode in our face or we are run ragged by our running from the truth. But we do have a third choice...and that's acceptance & appreciation. We have the choice to acknowledge and accept our lacks...and more than that, to appreciate them. For in truth, our lacks are essential pieces of our process, our mistakes are the path to our eventual success.
As I read through these past 5 parshiyot about the people bringing offerings to build the mishkan, I wondered over the invisible process each person must have gone through in making their gifts. Imagine the pressure to create something fitting for the dwelling-place of God. Imagine, if you were presenting something to God; how many drafts would you go through in the process?
The poem below is about those drafts. Its about the decomposition inherent in our compositions. It is about the necessarily pained process of creation, the fires of failure through which we all must pass. How can we appreciate our trashed drafts? For each mistake necessarily becomes part of the final product; even if it is only apparent in its corrected reworking.
After all, at the heart of the mishkan stood the Ark of the Covenant. And what was in the heart of the Ark of the Covenant - the Tablets of the Ten Commandments. But that was not all. It also held within it the broken tablets, the God-inscribed stones that had been shattered during the people's greatest failure. What a powerful Biblical image of acceptance and appreciation for the entirety of our lives, the achievements and the flaws. In the place of our utmost holiness, the broken is as beloved as the whole. For in the final accounting, both are essential to our journeys.
This my stitch
This form…my fracture
this scab...my gash
This shred of structure
My ruptured craft
Seven times I tied this line
six times it cracked
A pomegranate placed here
to cover up the stain
A gold stitch laced here
To suture in the pain
When you look into this lamp light
Do you sense its shade?
When you read this poetry
see the errors I have made?
This ravaged piece of needle point
pocked with draped despair
Too soiled with my soul to show
Yet all I have to share...
So if this patch can’t stumble past
the guardians at the Temple door
Then let God’s throne lay
- else what’s an altar for?