Now let me share with you something truly beautiful. It is a sort of Hebrew mystic expansion of Traherne’s moment of rapture. It is one of my favorite stories.
The disciples still tell of the time, more than two centuries ago, when the master known as the Bat Ayin, the Daughter of the Eye, received his call. The way the old students tell it, a mysterious man entered the study hall of the master in Europe and whispered with great intensity several sentences into his ear. On the very next day, the master gathered the community and announced that they had received the call of Lech Lecha, the call to go up to the Land of Israel.
The master was clearly roused to great passion. The disciples, infected by his ardor, were moved to action. The entire community over a period of a year was transplanted from Europe to the biblical land of Israel. It was around the time of the American Revolution. The community flourished in the mystical city of Safed, overlooking the Sea of Galilee.
One day, however, after many tranquil years, a mysterious man appeared in the study hall. The older disciples recognized him. It was the same man who had whispered into the master’s ear so many years before. Who was he? Where was he from? No one knew.
This time, however, he did not whisper several sentences into the master’s ear. He spoke to the master for only a moment, uttering perhaps one sentence. Then he was gone. The master’s face fell. He withdrew from the study hall into his room, where he remained seven whole days. When he came out, his face shone. That same ardor and passion that had moved him to make the initial journey once again lit up his countenance. “We are not there yet,” he said, “but we will get there.”
He began to sing and dance. His display went on for nearly seven hours. What was most strange, though, was that every fifteen minutes or so, he would go to the window, look outside, and then return to the circle, dancing and singing with renewed intensity and passion.
At some point in the eighth hour, a smile of ecstasy and triumph spread across his face. “Yes,” he said softly,
“they are rubies.”
He turned to his expectant disciples and explained. “When that mysterious man you saw spoke to me so many years ago, he whispered in my ear, ‘Go up to the Land and you will see that the air lifts you up and carries you on its wings. The water sparkles and tastes like the rivers of Eden. Even the stones in the street sparkle like rubies.’ His call aroused in me great passion. I knew that it was a true call. I came to this land, and indeed the very air itself carried me on its wings. The water sparkled and even tasted like the rivers of Eden. However, the stones…were stones! Rubies they were not. They were lovely and fine, but they didn’t sparkle. And that was sensible to me. I understood that he had exaggerated just a little, and all was well.
“When the same man reappeared last week, he whispered only six words in my ear: ‘The stones do sparkle like rubies.’ My heart dropped. I understood that I had not fully heard the call. My love had grown weak. And so I spent seven days meditating, sitting with my heart, and trying to rediscover my wellspring of passion. When I felt that I had touched it, I knew that I needed you, my community, to make it alive and real. So we danced and sang, and every little while I would look out the window to see if the stones were sparkling.”
The master smiled broadly at them. “And now as I look out the window, I can tell you that it’s true. I can see clearly now… the stones do sparkle like rubies.”
The master understands that his ability to respond to his call is directly proportional to the love he feels. Our calls cannot be fully perceived other than through the eyes of passion. Love and perception are holy bedfellows.
The Erotic and the Holy