Friday, January 13, 2012

Walking by Revelation/Stopping to Witness Revelation

Every day upon entering the Jewish Theological Seminary, I walk under the institution's seal, an imprint of the burning bush from Sh’mot 3:2, and the words, “And the bush was not consumed.”

Victor Brenner first designed the seal in 1902, corresponding to the ascendancy of Solomon Schechter to be chancellor of the Seminary. Brenner would become famous in 1909 for designing the imprint of Lincoln on the United States penny. With the reorganization of the institution in 1902, JTS sought to impress on the Jewish community that Jewish learning and living would live on into the future on American soil, never being extinguished.

This week we read of Moshe walking along and bearing witness to this ultimate wonder of God (3:1-4):

1. Now Moshe was keeping the flock of Yitro his father-in-law, the priest of Midyan; and he led the flock to the farthest end of the wilderness, and came to the mountain of God, unto Horev.

2. An angel of Adonai appeared to [Moshe] in a blazing fire out of a bush. He gazed, and there was a bush all aflame, yet the bush was not consumed.

3. Moshe said, “I must turn aside to look at this marvelous sight, why doesn’t the bush burn up?”

4. When Adonai saw that he had turned aside to look, God called to him out of the bush: “Moshe! Moshe! He answered, “Here I am.”

Look closely at the verses. Moshe does not recognize this revelation of God until the angel speaks to him out of the Bush. He is walking along, and there happens to be a burning bush on his walk past Horev. Had there been no voice, it seems very likely that Moshe would have failed to notice this epiphany. Humans go through life seeing through a dark glass. We often walk right by the revelation of God, whether walking through the desert, or down Lakeside Drive. Sometimes we hear a still, small voice, and sometimes we don’t need it. Often we just pass on by.

Michael Fishbane, author of Sacred Attunement, describes this event as an “awakening of habitude, and through it we may perceive a first intimation of what covenant attentiveness might mean. It occurs in the wilderness, amidst the labors of sustenance and routine, in an endless terrain of sameness” (52).

This is an individual moment, the covenant of one person with God. The communal covenant will happen at Sinai.

“Hence the first experience of Moses only provides a model for theological reflection about the primariness of covenant living in one’s personal life; and it is only with Moses’s second experience that we can derive some insight into the way a covenant may also establish a social structure for God-centered living. It is the foundation of this form that is so primary for biblical religion and theology; and its ongoing revision is of absolute centrality for Jewish theology and its various life-forms” (55).

Through the model of explicating Torah, Fishbane outlines a lens of attuning to the divine in our lives. Covenant exists both in individual and communal contexts, sometimes overlapping, others not.

As we journey through the parasha this week, allow yourself some time to notice moments of revelation, those that call out to you and also those that you might have walked by.

No comments:

Post a Comment