Monday, January 18, 2010

Boundaryhood and Brother/Sisterhood:Temple Tears

It was my oldest daughter’s birthday recently. She is forty-seven, beautiful, brilliant, political activist and feminist and mother of two daughters, thirteen and ten, who are equally winsome. I love them all.

I remember my nervousness about being a new mother, feeling scared of her infant power, adoring her with equal zeal. I remember wondering: Who is she? Who am I? Today I give thanks that most days I know who she is and who I am.

Boundary issues abound.

I also remember when a second daughter was born just 14 months later. I watched the intensity with which the sisters drew boundaries, staked claims and marked territories. They grew up and into a world of love, rivalry and boundaries—just as we all do.
It was also my oldest grandson’s birthday recently. He is seven, beautiful, sensitive, bright. I watch him and his little sister, four, do their boundary dance balancing war and peace with amazing grace.

Nations do no less than families and are still warring about territories and properties and who owns what. If you want someone else’s property you have to conquer it, or steal it. Just watch small children with their toys. Fierce.

In most churches, families and communities we teach and model compassion, sharing, brother and sisterhood more than any other values. We also teach the importance of having good boundaries so we can tell where we leave off and another begins and just how much personal space each needs for self and allows for the other. Life is demarcation and détente over and over.

Do we ever wonder about thinking, acting, living, loving outside the boundary?

In Hebrew legend there is a question: How did God choose the particular plot of land in Jerusalem where the Temple would be built? This parable is told.

There were two brothers who grew up together on the family farm. They lived there as adults, partners in the farming of one large field and sharing its produce. One brother we'll call A had a large family. The other brother we'll call Z had no family. A decided that Z had no family and should get more than half of the share of the resources from the field. So each night he went out after midnight to move the boundary of the field after the harvest so Z would have a bit more. Z, realizing he had no family responsibility had decided that A had so many responsibilities he should have more than half the crops, so he went out each night just before midnight to move the field's boundary so A would have more. This went on for a while but neither brother received more of the produce. They were puzzled at the mystery. One night A went out earlier and Z went out a little later so they arrived at the field to move the boundary at the same time. When they realized what had happened they fell weeping on each other's shoulders. The Temple was built on the spot where their tears fell because the essence of Temple is the ability to expand your boundary to include your wider self which includes everyone and everything else, and the width, breadth and depth of God. Tears wash away boundaries and therefore where Temple is built shows that all compassion and kindness are rooted in our radical interconnection.

Do you have a boundary you would like to move, seek to dissolve, strengthen? In yourself? With a neighbor or loved one? with Godde?