Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale shadows our soul-body journey
and even our resurrection.
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Picture: Tree archway in snow, Edinburgh (Source: pinkpigart.co.uk)
Judaic (orthodox), Messianic Judaic, and Christian teachings stand in agreement:
Death isn’t the end. It's another beginning. The soul is eternal. There’s a resurrection coming at the end of days, orchestrated by the hand of G-d.
This 5-part Resurrection Jewish Style series explores G-d’s many sneak peeks—real accounts of real people who were resurrected—throughout the Bible.
Recommended reading order . . .
Shakespeare’s plays often navigate spiritual waters. A Winter’s Tale is no exception.
The story travels the barrenness, brokenness, and blackened leaves of our wintry lives and goes on to the real latter rain that God promises—the “rainy season” as Judaic scholars call it—a resurrection that ushers in a spring, a lasting fruitfulness. A time where our soul-body matrix is reunited, judged, and followed by everlasting life (for the righteous) and everlasting abhorrence (for the unrighteous).
In Act 1, Scene 2, Polixenes—King of Bohemia—describes his childhood relationship with Sicily’s King Leontes as twins, buddy buddies, innocents. That is, until life happens and they are cast out of their Garden-of-Eden-esque, grace-like existence and into Leontes’ irrational rampage, where he goes all Othello on his wife, Hermiones, and longtime buddy, Polixenes.
For the sake of the plot—not unlike our own soul stories—the characters don’t choose the more innocent path . . . leaving Shakespeare to expose familiar elements of the soul’s journey—its rise, decline, fall, redemptive resurrection.
His tale bulges with jealousies, accusations, misjudgments, malicious lies, for-the-better-good lies, over-the-top emotional reactions, bitterness, relationship splits, disloyalty, paranoia, tyranny, expulsions, broken hearts, death, presumed resurrection, some reuniting, and renewal.
The Bard even turns the physical tables of the atmosphere to mirror the inner soul rumblings of his characters‘ interactions—Sicily’s Mediterranean warmth and light are vanished, replaced by a wintry heart of darkness.
It’s the stuff of life.
More to the point, the stuff of a soul-out-of-sync life.
Self-focused. Earthly tethered.
Not pulled upward into the things of God.
And largely the reason why we need a bodily resurrection,
a reunion with the soul.
Let me explain . . .
EXIT, PURSUED BY A BEAR
journeying between weight and responsibility
Okay, so you’re not exactly like Shakespeare’s Antigonus, the king’s advisor who was chased off stage by a bear. But “bears” and their presumed Shakespearean connotation—the word appearing about 12 times in the play, teetering between bearing the onus for your actions and their related guilt, with the fierce “bearish” beast appearing in the midst of it all—do have their place in your soul experience and its aftermath, your future resurrection.
Bearing your soul.
Bearing the weight of your actions—good and not so good.
Bearing the scrutiny of others and our internal self.
Bearing the hardships and testings along life’s journey.
Bearing the responsibility for what you’ve said, done, thought, written, shared, taught, imposed, desired, touched, took, gave, blessed, cursed, healed, harmed, lifted up, brought down.
Bearing the yoke of heaven.
Bearing the final outcome of it all—with your soul’s work salted by fire, tested by His holiness so the work is either reduced to ash and stubble or glorified in Him.
Think of it as your winter’s tale. Birth. Life. Death. Resurrection. The place where the physical and spiritual fuse, divide, then fuse again. It’s how your life begins—and how it unfolds on its way to a spring revival that will last eternally.
Your soul—with its various nuances—is stitched into your body while in the womb. Together, they embark on a journey and specific life work . . . a work that ignites your soul-body refinement, laying the foundation for your bodily resurrection.
Three Hebraic expressions are used interchangeably in scripture for the word soul—neshama (breath), ruach (wind/spirit), nefesh (life force, awareness of self, enmeshed with the body).
Collectively, these elements reflect the soul’s life energy, emotions, intellect, distinctiveness, and umbilical-like connection to God.
Indeed. The soul-body matrix belongs to the Lord.
The soul [neshama/soul’s breath] is Yours, and the body is Your handiwork.
הַנְשָמָה לָך וְהַגוּף פְּעֳלָך
[a prayer from Judaic High Holy Days services]
NO SMOOTH SAILING
Since the soul nuance translated as life force/self (nefesh) is enmeshed with the body, it makes a way for the the soul to join the body in a human experience in this worldly dimension.
But therein lies the challenge. A big one. An inner battle that impacts not only this side of heaven . . . but also what happens at the soul-body resurrection.
The soul is God-breathed and its life actions with the body are to be pulled upward into the things of God—raising the level, glory to glory for a spiritually fruitful life. Surrendering to the will of God, “accepting the yoke of heaven.”
But if the self part of the soul gets pulled downward with the body’s earth-minded drives—things can go south fast.
This news is mortal to the queen:
look down and see what death is doing.
—Paulina, Act 3, Scene 2, Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale
Per Judaic thought—Maimonides, the renowned 12th century Jewish philosopher—whenever character traits get out of sync, they erect a veil that blocks the flow of divine light to the soul.
For those on the other side of the Judaic-Messianic bridge, a New Testament passage in Ephesians 4:17-19 explains it even further . . . teaching that when the soul is darkened, there is a futility of thinking, hardness of heart, causing the soul to become blinded, callous, losing all sensitivity and indulging in every kind of impurity with greediness, even alienated from God.
And for those who once walked with God, that darkening causes an arctic-chill “winter soul tale” and an eventual crisis of faith, where the chasm between the soul and God is palatable. And where the soul feels removed from God—or worse, feels that He is the one who turned away.
Breaking faith can often lead you in all the wrong directions, chasing that waistcoated White Rabbit down, down, down a spiritually empty hole. A trap, really. Eclipsing, compromising, or reinventing what God faithfully has revealed throughout time about Himself and ignoring the raison d’être of your soul journey down here for what lies ahead.
The earthly tug-of-war in your soul-body journey may not match Shakespearean drama or some seamy, edgy movie . . . it can be subtle. But just as spiritually derailing.
WINTER. RAIN. RESURRECTION.
real meaning of the latter glory being greater than the former
You weren’t created to stay locked in this war-torn state forever. This present leg of the journey is meant to help your soul-body matrix become something more. Something greater. God has already prepared a way . . . one where you can emerge and walk in your heavenly reality—how you already exist in God’s heart, in His mind, in Him.
With a bodily resurrection . . . winter and the soul-body war are over.
The receiver-driven body is dead, corrupted, disintegrated.
God had made a way for all things to be made new.
In Him, in His Messiah.
Jesus (Yeshua, his Hebrew name.)
He is the only open doorway to God for Jews and Gentiles.
Through Him, the body is resurrected to His righteousness.
The body is now incorruptible.
It is now a giver and a receiver.
It is reunited with the refined soul.
The body and soul become like a wheel within a wheel.
Both working as one in holy tandem—giving and receiving in a sanctified way. Without self-gratification/self-adoration—raised in the image of God.
Mirroring His circular, love-funnel nature, a complete circle of His flow.
A soul that has been tested, tried, submerged and empowered
by His Truth, Life, Way, Word.
SO BRING ON THE RAIN:
THE GREATEST GLORY
In the winter tale of your soul, you are dormant, still, laid bare. But then . . . .
Rain comes after the barrenness, brokenness, and blackened leaves of winter. It heralds in the spring, hope, vegetation, new beginnings.
God says when you delight in His ways, your soul is like a tree—Psalm 1:3 (firmly planted by streams of water, fruitful, never withering), Psalm 92:13 (flourishing like a palm tree, planted in the house of the Lord), Psalm 52:10 (a green olive tree in the house of God).
Hosea 6:2-3. After two days, he will revive us; on the third day, he will raise us up; and we will live in his presence. And let us know, let us strive to know the LORD: like the dawn whose going forth is sure, and He will come to us like the rain, like the latter rain which satisfies the earth.
The latter rain is the greatest glory.
The latter rain is bodily resurrection.
So we all need to take heed during this earthly “winter tale” journey to live and walk wisely.
What plays into your soul’s future resurrection? Your relationship with the real God—the only One, the One of the Bible, not some version of “god” or what religion may/may not say about Him—and your relationship with His gift, Jesus, the Messiah, the only doorway to a righteous resurrection.
READ MORE IN THE RESURRECTION SERIES
In the shadow of the ladder, Rabbi Yehudah Lev Ashlag
http://www.aish.com/sp/pg/Path-of-the-Soul-1-Discovering-Mussar.html (Maimonides character traits)