Yitro - Sanity Practice

by Rabbi Shefa Gold

The Blessing

The great blessing that comes to us this week of Parshat Yitro is the blessing of Divine revelation. When, in our wanderings, we come to Sinai, God speaks to each of us directly. The mountain of revelation appears to us on our journey when we are ready to receive the awesome truth of our connection to The Source, to each other and to all of Creation. In that moment it will become clear — obviously, God is the true reality. Bowing down to my illusions would be silly. Of course, I cannot hurt any other living thing without hurting myself. We are a part of each other. Of course, there is no need to steal. Who is there to steal from, but another part of the larger self that I am? In that moment of revelation it will become clear that the desire that has created such turmoil within me is based on an illusion of lack. I, who am connected to all of Creation, am rich beyond measure. And certainly, my father and mother must be honored. They are my own flesh and blood and they gave me this precious life. And yes, in that moment of revelation the beauty and sanctity of Shabbat becomes clear. How else can I remember this moment of freedom that revelation brings if not by stopping and receiving the miracle of Creation each week?

There is no need for commandments at Sinai. The moment of revelation is a moment of clarity that informs how we live. In that moment of clarity all boundaries between self and other dissolve; all of our senses confirm the fact that consciousness can expand beyond culturally set boundaries and expectations. At Sinai it seems that we see the sound of thunder and hear the flash of lightening. Sound and light are revealed to us as energy. A whole new way of perceiving energy is awakened in us at that moment of revelation. With this new perception, even the thickest darkness cannot obscure the truth that we have been given.

God says, "I have carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you back to Me." God, as mother eagle lifts us up out of our limited perceptions and shows us a perspective of the whole. When we take that view to heart, our lives are transformed.


The Spiritual Challenge

 How do we prepare ourselves for the moment of revelation? How do we find our way to Sinai? The parsha begins with a visit from Yitro, who is Moshe’s father-in-law, and his teacher of the mysteries of the wilderness. Yitro comes to prepare Moshe for Sinai. The old master of the wilderness watches how Moshe lives, how he tries to do everything himself, and yet is never alone. He says, "This is crazy. You’re wearing yourself down with this life of yours. You sit alone and yet people are around you all the time. You need to change the way you do things."

He instructs Moshe in the laws of empowerment — how to see and call forth the qualities of leadership in others, and how to share in the joy and the burden of being human. If you’re sitting alone with the burden of Truth, it will weigh you down. And if you’re serving people from morning till night, you cannot become a proper vessel for Revelation.

I often say, "My first practice is sanity." Sanity for me is the condition that allows for the full functioning of my body, feelings, thought and awareness, which then allows me to be present for revelation. Sanity requires just the right balance of solitude and service, spaciousness and stimulation.

If Yitro would come to you in his wisdom and observe the course of your day; if he watched how you balanced the requirements for wholeness, what might he say to you?


Guidance for Practice

Make a commitment to sanity and wholeness by taking Yitro’s advice to heart. Be honest about your requirements for sanity. What must you do each day in order to stay whole and alert? Sometimes we only learn about these requirements when we don’t fulfill them and find ourselves out-of-balance, unable to be present for the miracle around us.

The practice for this week of Yitro is to do an honest accounting of:

our minimum daily requirements,

our minimum weekly requirements,

our minimum monthly requirements,

our minimum yearly requirements,

for solitude, silence, wilderness, learning, music, dance, meditation, pleasure, beauty, nourishment, intimacy, rest, retreat time, whatever it is that is required in order to feel truly whole and fully alive.

After contemplating your requirements, write them down and share them with a Spirit Buddy. Then take out your appointment book. Whenever I teach a workshop on spiritual practice I say that this is the holiest book there is. It’s the one you look at every day and live by. When you make a specific commitment to a practice, write it in that holy book. Then do it, just as you would take the responsibility of fulfilling you other commitments that are written in that Holy Appointment Book.

By making a commitment to your own wholeness you send a clear message to God that you are available, that holiness is your priority.