Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Learning light the hard way

This is an extract from The Jonathan Sacks Haggada in which Rabbi Lord Sacks has just described the moral lesson taught to Jonah with the incident with the gourd providing him shade from the sun.

“…God teaches Jonah to care by giving him something and then taking it away. Loss teaches us to value things, though usually too late. What we have, and then lose, we do not take for granted. The religious vision is not about seeing things that are not there. It is about seeing the things that are there and always were, but which we never noticed, or paid attention to. Faith is a form of attention. It is a sustained meditation on the miraculous of what is, because it might not have been. What we lose and are given back we learn to cherish in a way we would not have done had we never lost it in the first place. Faith is about not taking things for granted.

This is the key to understanding a whole series of narratives in the book of Genesis. Sarah, Rebecca, and Rachel long to have children but discover that they are infertile. Only through God’s intervention are they able to conceive. Abraham goes through the trial of the binding of Isaac, only to discover that God, who asked him to sacrifice his child, says ‘Stop’ at the last moment. This is how the covenantal family learns that having children is not something that merely happens. It is how the people of Israel learned, at the dawn of their history, never to take children for granted. Jewish continuity, the raising of new generations of Jews, is not natural, inevitable, a process that takes care of itself. It needs constant effort and attention. The same is true of freedom…”

Looking back over the learning that I've done in the past five years and could have done - I realize that Education is light.