DAY 864: Some Thoughts for Veterans’ Day — On Power, On Freedom, On Tzimtzum

November 11, 2014
By bethmordecai
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DAY 864: Some Thoughts for Veterans’ Day — On Power, On Freedom, On Tzimtzum


“The conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declarator and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficient ends of its institution”

Preamble to the Bill of Rights (1789)

Dear Hevreh,

Today we celebrate Veterans’ Day, a day in which we recall the sacrifices made (and to be made) by the men and women of our armed services to guard our nation and protect our freedoms. It has often struck me how the language we use in describing our armed services in America (like in the previous sentence)  goes further than simply describing the defense of the sovereignty and interests of the State. Our service men and women are not just protecting our country, they’re protecting our right to be free.

On the surface this doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Of course our military is supposed to protect our freedom, what else is it supposed to do! But when you look around the world and you see militias and armies attacking its own citizens (Syria) and determining who remains in power (Egypt) you realize just how much the military is an instrument of power. It’s a power that can be used for good or for bad, but it’s a power that is absolute in its ability to use the tools of combat to assert its power.

What makes our military unique is that it is role is not simply to assert American power in the world, but to protect the value of ceding power, of consciously restricting our abilities to control and dominate so that we can have the room to be…free. That is the value at the heart of the Bill of Rights, which will be re-enacted today at noon at City Hall Circle as part of the Veterans’ Day festivities. As written above, the States that formed the Union made the conscious choice to “prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers” by handing over its potential power — to determine who can speak freely, who will be protected by the law, etc. — to the people. And in the same breath as we talk about the power of our military, we describe how they use that power to protect our Consitution and the Bill of Rights which at its core is about restricting power.

In Hebrew, this act of consciously restricting its power is called tzimtzum and according to Jewish mystical sources, it is the divine act of tzimtzum which caused the world to be created. Before creation, God, who is the Ultimate Power, filled the universe with God’s essence. Yet in wanting to create life, God realized there was no room for life to exist with God filling the whole universe. So God consciously constricted (tzimtzum) God’s power in order for life to exist, to fourish, to be free.

In each of our lives we are faced with opportunities to assert our dominance — our power — in which the only voice heard is our own. But as the the formation of our Union and the creation of the world teaches us, it is not in the assertion of of our power that makes us strong, it is our willingness to consciously restrict that power that gives us the ultimate form of strength…our freedom.

May this land always be a land of the free and the home of the brave who protect and guard our freedom.

Kol Tuv,

Rabbi Ari Saks

Category : American Jewish News Perth Amboy News Rabbi Rabbi's Journal
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