I was talking recently with a friend of mine, in regards to the High Holy Days, about the idea of being judged. This idea did not sit well with him at all. As for most of us, the idea of being judged seemed all negative and full of harshness and all report-card-ish. The thing about report cards is that even when you get straight A’s, there’s something about them that feels yucky. We know we’ve been labelled and can just as easily be found wanting, and thus end up with B’s or C’s or G-d forbid F’s. I know that I myself often fear getting an F in anything I take on in life – marriage, parenting, starting a blog… But I think that this kind of judgement, the kind that we fear, is human and petty, bringing up thoughts of criticism and rejection. It’s not G-d-like at all.
I think we get a taste of Divine judgement when we engage in the most divine act available to humans: the act of creation. I’m an amateur potter, so this is the analogy that came to mind in talking to my friend. I told him that when I work with clay on the wheel, I have to stop the wheel’s spinning every so often and examine the specimen before me. How’s the clay holding up? Is it too wet, to dry? Is the bottom still too thick? What about the walls of the bowl: are they even and thin or wobbly and ready to collapse?
To any potter, these are basic and simple questions. No matter how expert a craftsman one becomes, this inquiry has to occur. The clay must be judged. And it must be judged against the vision the potter has for the end product she is creating. It must also be judged against standards of quality, that if not upheld, will yield a piece that is too heavy, wobbly, ugly, or worse yet, will simply explode in the kiln. And after the assessment has been made, the potter can decide what needs to be done next: perhaps stretch the clay, slap on some more moisture, lift it up, open it out. And any bowl or cup or sculpture has to go through the fire, the only way it’s going to come out finished.
This is the type of judgement, I believe, that our Creator does at this time of year. He’s assessing what gifts and tools we need in order thrive and grow into the vision He and we have for ourselves. And now that Yom Kippur is behind us, we are no longer under G-d’s assessing, judging eye, but we are nevertheless fully in His presence. As we enter our Sukkot, before the wheel starts whirring again, we get a week to just bask in the glow of our potential, of our sticky, wet, unfinished selves striving to become a shiny, colorful vessel ready to hold the greatest light.
May we be blessed with a year of Life, Vitality, and Sweetness. And may we know that when we feel squeezed, uplifted, smashed, opened up, or put through fire, that it’s all the hand of the King of Kings molding us into our greatest selves!
Wishing you many little joys!
P.S. As I was looking for an image for this post, I came upon one that spoke to me greatly. I clicked in the blog it came from, which happens to be written by a devout Christian, Lydia Davis, who incidentally was using this image to talk about G-d and the metaphor of the potter. Which, of course, gave me chills. She quoted a passage from Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah), which I am so delighted she introduced me to (thanks Chabad.org for the translation):
1The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying: