I first heard this story on the public radio show “Speaking of Faith” that is now called “On Being,” hosted by Krista Tippett. On the show, she interviews all sorts of interesting people, all of them deep thinkers and mystics and wonderers in their own ways. A few days ago, I read it again in Tippett’s most recent book, Becoming Wise. It’s an important story, I think. I’m glad I was reminded of it these years later. It’s the story of the Birthday of the World.
This version below is as told by Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen, a medical doctor who has a unique and much needed perspective on spirituality, healing, and living (and dying) well. Her grandfather gave the story to her for her 4th birthday. It makes me wonder how the world would be different if every child were given this story, or one like it, (and reminded of it often) on their fourth birthdays.
In the beginning there was only the Holy Darkness, the Ein Sof, the source of life. Then in the course of history at a moment in time this world, the world of 1000 thousand things, emerged from the heart of the Holy Darkness as a great ray of light.
And then (perhaps because this is a Jewish story) there was an accident. The vessels containing the light of the world, the wholeness of the world, broke. And the wholeness of the world, the light of the world was scattered into 1000 thousand fragments of light. And they fell into all events and all people, where they remain deeply hidden until this very day.
According to my grandfather, the whole human race is a response to this accident. We are here because we are born with the capacity to find the hidden light in all events and all people, and to lift it up and make it visible once again, and thereby to restore the innate wholeness of the world.
This is a very important story for the world today. This task is called tikkun olam in Hebrew, which means the restoration of the whole world. This is a collective task. It involves all people who have ever been born, all people presently alive and all people yet to be born. We are all healers of the world.