There's this cool grammatical thing that the Rastafarian religion practices. When a Rastafari uses a sentence that addresses both the first person and the second person, they use the same word for both. So instead of saying 'You and I', a rastafari would say 'I and I'. The idea is: concern for the other is my principal concern.
I was reminded of this when I got to this neat little commentary on the Torah. We learned last month in the book of Exodus that perched over the ark sat two 'cherubs'. In one place in Torah, we are told that they stand face to face. But in another place, we are told they face away from each other and towards the Temple. How can this be?
The Talmud tells us 'One is at a time when Israel does God's will. The other is at a time when Israel does not do God's will.' The great Hasidic master the Pardes Yosef clarified that God's will, in this case, is in looking to the needs of the other - just as the cherubs look at each other, so too should Israel look to the concerns of their fellow humans before their own.
This is a hard thing to do, but I can't think of a more essential teaching to what it is to lead a spiritual life. A spiritual life is a life lived by relocating the locus of concern outside of oneself, and instead centering in around somebody else. It's not 'you and I' - it's 'I and I'.
- Rabbi Mark Asher Goodman
Rabbi Mark Asher Goodman is the spiritual leader of Brith Sholom Jewish Center in Erie, PA. These are a collection of thoughts and writings since he joined the community in Erie. For more of his past writings, click here.