Rabbi Jeff Roth Ignorance: Ways We Miss the Divine

In this Jewish meditation talk given at the Elat Chayyim Advanced Meditation Program, Rabbi Jeff Roth talks about ignorance and the patterns of mind which prevent us from truly meeting the Divine in our lives.

From the talk…
There’s a kind of ignorance that just goes hand in hand with being lost in thought. You’re basically ignoring everything that’s happening now. Except perhaps for the thoughts themselves.

I took a sip of the soup and it was incredibly good and delicious and I immediately started thinking, ‘I could figure out what the ingredients are in this soup. I could figure out what the spices are and then I could make this soup and I could have it whenever I wanted. And I always wanted to have a restaurant, it’d really be nice to own a restaurant.’

Now the whole bowl of soup is gone. In the meantime the whole bowl of soup, you eat a whole bowl of soup and everything is lost. This is a kind of ignorance that comes out of the pleasant.

Ignorance is not about not having knowledge, it’s about having the wrong kind of knowledge. We don’t know how long we’re going to live, we don’t know what’s going to happen to us tomorrow, we don’t have the slightest clue what sense door is going to be struck next, we don’t know what the next second of the sit is going to be. Not knowing is an antidote to ignorance.

There was a rabbi who lived in this town for 30 years, it was a shtel. He lived on a village square on one side and on the other side was the synagogue. The town was run by Cossacks and the police chief was a Cossack. Most of the time they got along OK, but occasionally there was friction. Every single morning the rabbi gets up goes across the square and leads davenenning, leads the morning minyan.

One morning the rabbi, it’s 30 years later, the rabbi’s crossing the square one morning and the police chief says, “Good morning Rabbi. Where to?” as if he doesn’t know, maybe he’s just making conversation. And the rabbi says to him “I don’t know.” And the Cossack police chief gets really furious, he thinks the rabbi’s dissing him, he knows where he’s going and the rabbi knows where he’s going. He grabs the rabbi by his coat and takes him to the jail and throws him in and as he’s closing the door, the rabbi says, “See you never know.”

It doesn’t matter, you never know what the next moment’s going to bring.


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