Jewish Grace

Jewish Grace

Question: Can ordinary folks experience a state of grace?

Rabbi REUVEN BULKA is head of Congregation Machzikei Hadas in Ottawa and host of Sunday night with Rabbi Bulka on 580 CFRA.

This is a difficult question for me to answer because frankly I do not know what “state of grace” actually means.

“State of grace,” according to one definition, is “unmerited Divine assistance given man (and I presume woman) for his (her) regeneration or sanctification.” Alternately, “state of grace” is identified with “state of sanctification enjoyed through Divine grace.”

If this is what you mean by “state of grace,” then I think I can surmise what motivates your question. Your issue is that state of grace is linked in some measure to sanctification, which implies that the person who is in the state of grace is sacred, or holy, rather than ordinary.

That leads to a crucial question: who is ordinary and who is holy? My sense has always been that when a person considers himself or herself holy, that person ceases to be not only holy, but also becomes less than ordinary. On the hand, a person who considers himself or herself as merely ordinary is more likely to be more than ordinary, perhaps even holy, whatever holy means.

Too often the people whom we think of as holy have turned out to be great failures, if not phonies. Holiness in general is not, and should not be, obvious. Obvious holiness is bereft of modesty and therefore more likely to be a superficial cloak over a less than stellar reality.

Aside from the difficulty with defining who is ordinary, there is also a difficulty with the word “experience.” Do you mean by this that the person senses being graced, or is it being blessed by grace without knowing it?

It seems to me that we are much better off working from the common foundation that simply by being alive we are blessed (graced) by God, and that to the extent that we live meritoriously, to that extent we have brought grace into our lives.

I prefer thinking of “state of grace” as the “quality or state of being considerate or thoughtful.” That is something toward which everyone can and should aspire. The moment anyone thinks that they are too extraordinary to aspire to this, at that moment they become arrogant. And the moment they embrace this state of grace, at that moment they cease to be ordinary.

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