On the labyrinth there is one way in and one way out.
As we recite the Pirket Avot I imagine myself looking up from the feet of the ancient sages, the feet of Jesus Himself, hearing Him ask me, “Are you surrounded by My living hedge?” There was a time when I would have received this as a passive question invoking a positive but sentimental answer, inflated by a lack of experience or naivete. Fortunately that naivete broke and opened me to the deeper meaning. Now, I hear this question actively asking me if I am awake in continuous prayer to timeless truth, am I awake in service to timeless truth, am I awake in the study of timeless truth that has been painstakingly written down and lived for me? My answer is yes but, of course, I can do better. May I strive to be more like the ant who carries six times its own weight back to the communal nest.
This question can inspire great pride, great shame, rebellious and sometimes dangerous resistance, or deep humility. It reveals where we are in our readiness for the truth of our life and for our return home from wherever our reveries have broken us open or continue to break us open. It probes the heart where the cracks live, where our innocence is lost and our suffering and mortality is found, where idealism and sentimentality give way to realism, where words without experience have no power, where compassion and the hope of eternality beam light into the heart. This is precisely where the birth canal to the soul opens and requires constant compassionate midwifing to birth our souls slowly into the world and plant. When one is truly seated in humility with one’s regrets, remorse, and atoning heart, the words of the sages are a living hedge around the soul, gentle revelatory lights on the path that keep us moving forward into Mystery, into life, into love, into justice.