Someone asked me over this past Shabbat for the meaning of the “sefira” of the day “dominance within beauty”. My reflections set the stage for my answer Sunday when someone else asked me about that day's “sefira” “submission within beauty”. The question directed me into a reflection on my own internal answer.
For me, the answer is that sometimes “balance” (the core of beauty and truth) requires a measure of submission. Giving room for where others are coming from is an important part of the this picture of balance. A true artist leaves room for personal interpretation on the part of the audience; thereby, setting the stage for the communication to be internalized. Every piece of art, in any medium, which stood the test of time had to have left room for the audience to internalize it. This made the audience feel like they owned a little bit of the artwork - for they secretly (or maybe even openly) added something to it. By adding their own internal processing and interpretation they’ve become “little partners” in the work. This is what it means to “appreciate” a work of art.
Similarly, when the Creator gave the Torah, He allowed some partnership in the area of the Oral Law and teachings. He didn’t crowd out the intellectual space with His transmission. Rather, He balanced the transmission with some empty space for “audience interaction”; thereby, allowing us to become partners of sorts with His Torah, to allow us to drink the waters of Torah much more deeply and come out as finer characters. The more we work to understand the Torah, the more we have to grapple with the gaps in the transmission. If we choose to engage it, this “grappling” forces an internalization, leading to positive personal change, a cleaner, healthier and kinder character.
The lesson is that every communication needs to leave breathing room to allow for the recipient’s own internalization. If a communication is a perfectly closed system, there’s nothing to engage. There’s no inner dialogue with it. What was created was a great reference dictionary full of clinically cold facts. Usually, people don’t immerse themselves in such frosty tomes, at least not without a profit motive. To be internalized, a communication of truth and/or beauty needs some gaps to serve as handles for people to bring the presentation into their hearts.
This is possibly what it means that the Torah is either the “elixir of life” or the “elixir of ...”. It’s all a question of how one handles the gaps. More precisely, it’s more a question of how one fills in the gaps. The quality of the filler makes all the difference. It’s the cement that holds the message together.