Can God be found in the workplace, on a regular workday, or is the spiritual experience reserved for special locations, on special days of the year? Do we need to separate ourselves from our mundane daily routines to access God?
One of the most beautiful and revolutionary contributions of Judaism is that the Divine can and must be experienced in our material existence – not in meditative seclusion on a mountaintop, not through asceticism or self-depravation, but in our very physical lives and activities.
This is the lesson of this week’s Torah reading and of the current Hebrew month of Elul – the month which holds the secret of how to access heaven on earth, the month that teaches: yes, you can hold infinity in the palm of your material hand and eternity in the mundane hours of your routine life; yes, you can experience the extraordinary in the ordinary, and yes, you can touch the sky even as your feet are firmly planted on ground and your hands toiling in the earth.
It is a common metaphor in Jewish literature to describe God as the king, and humanity as the farmer toiling in the field. Perhaps if the sages were writing today, they would use the metaphor of the Prime Minister and the banker, or the CEO and the junior executive, but somehow it would not have the same ring. Certainly not when we are speaking about the month of preparation for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, when it is said that God is at His most accessible, when “the King is in the field.” The king has left the palace and is now communing with the farmer in the field.
In modern workingman’s or workingwoman’s terms the field is the office or the home. What if the king – the chairman of the board – came calling. We’d offer him a cup of tea or a gin-and-tonic, and then what? He has the potential to grant us whatever we want. But do we know what that is? How can we make the most of this encounter?