Guest Posting From "Space Cadet" - Shadows
As I hurry to shul in the morning (usually a little late), I’m distracted by the shadows on the wall of the neighbor’s house -- especially during the months when there are leaves on the trees. Like oriental calligraphy, these shadows of trees that line the avenue are painted each day anew by the sun. Even the stucco wall looks like watercolor paper, yellowed by age, disrupted by windows. But don’t pay attention to the windows. Just the shadows.
What’s so fascinating about shadows? Mysterious, incorporeal, attached to every object or building or creature under the sun.
Not those Jungian dream shadows that populate the underworld of consciousness, but shadows you walk into when the light is at your back, and they keep receding until you turn the corner and they’re gone; diffident shadows darkening the twisted inner branches of hedges and bushes as you walk by, pretending that you don’t notice them, so they won’t be embarrassed.
The Baal Shem Tov says that Hashem is like a shadow that goes wherever we go, reciprocating everything we do (Sefer Baal Shem Tov, Kedoshim 21). Shadows of cosmic justice! Hashem is concealed in the shadows.
And there are the shadows of Rebbe Nachman’s "Tree That Stands Beyond Space." The Tree hovers in mid-air, tantalizingly inaccessible to those who seek transcendence. "In the shadow of its branches, all creatures takes refuge, living in peace and delight forever" ("The Seven Beggars," Fifth Day). Rebbe Nachman’s shadows bear the secret of action and repose, being and nothingness, manifestation and dissolution.
Being is colorful and exciting, nothingness, unchanging and peaceful. Yet they are inextricably bound together. Like sound and silence.
Like a groom and bride. Being proposes marriage to nothingness -- the "nothingness" above all limitation and form, the fertile void, the womb of creation -- and nothingness accepts immediately, without saying a word.
As Chazal declare: "The world is a wedding…"