Express Yourself!

August 5, 2012 - 5:00 am

“My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.” — Psalm 84:2

A few hundred years ago, there were two great Jewish masters who had very different styles of worshiping God. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev was renowned for his unbridled passion for all things holy. He could never stand still during prayers; instead he would be seen dancing and swaying, from one side of the room to the next. In direct contrast was Rabbi Baruch of Medzibuz. His service to God was extremely dignified. His every action was performed with total control and utmost discipline.

Rabbi Levi’s greatest wish was to spend the Sabbath with Rabbi Baruch, but Rabbi Baruch was concerned that Rabbi Levi’s form of worship would disturb the quiet, meditative service of his community. He agreed to host his colleague but made him promise to keep things calm. Rabbi Levi agreed and held himself back from his normal expressiveness during his prayers. Everything was going well until they began the festive Sabbath meal.

“Would you like sour fish or sweet fish?” a young student asked Rabbi Levi.

“Like? I only like God,” burst out the holy soul.

Rabbi Levi jumped up and, in doing so, overturned the entire tray of fish. “I love God, I love God!” Rabbi Levi could no longer control himself! He was now dancing and singing, with all his pent-up energy finally let loose. The fish flew into the air as Rabbi Levi waved his arms in holy ecstasy. When the fish landed, they were found on none other than Rabbi Baruch’s pristine white prayer shawl.

Afterwards, Rabbi Baruch refused to allow anyone to wash that prayer shawl, although it was stained. “I want to wear the prayer shawl stained with love for God,” he explained. And so it was. That prayer shawl was handed down from one generation to the next. Never was it washed, for the holy stains were reminders of what it means to truly love God.

In Psalm 84, the Psalmist expresses his deep love for the Lord:  “My soul yearns, even faints . . . my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” King David described his deep desire to be connected to God. Somewhere deep within us, our souls yearn too. Like Rabbi Levi, our innermost being wants nothing more than to cleave to the living God.

It’s not always appropriate to break out in song and dance in expression of love for God. I can imagine that it might be disturbing in the middle of your supermarket! But every once in a while, it’s important to let yourself go. Let loose in song or dance or in any other form of expression. As you express your deep love for God, you will experience His love for you.


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