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Waiting for Sinai

We are getting ready for revelation. We are waiting for meaning, for coherence. We crave a sense that what we are doing matters and is significant. Yet we can never know, so we keep waiting. We stand freed from Egypt. We crossed the Sea three weeks ago but we have no idea where we are going. The promise is a land, but we’ve never been there and don’t know what it will be like.

We’ve been counting each day. Noticing at the beginning of the day that we need to get ourselves ready for something. The meaning and coherence for which we seek can be attained only through effort and readiness. Revelation can happen only when we have cultivated receptivity. Yet we don’t even know what it is we are supposed to receive.

God’s hand brought us out of Egypt. Or at least, that is what Moses said. There were signs and wonders. Plagues and devastation. But then, we have lived in slavery and devastation for hundreds of years and no one ever said God caused it. We want to believe it was God. From where we stood and what we saw there is no way to know. If it is our job to be receptive, to be ready for revelation, do we really want to receive a revelation from that which caused all this loss and pain?

We are told that three actions will ready us for what is coming. Those actions are: observe the Shabbat. We have left Egypt and all its noise and distractions. We need the quiet of the wilderness. Yet we manage to fill our space with talk, and rivalries, and busy-ness. So says Moses: be still. Breathe. Shabbat v’yinafash- observe Shabbat as a kind of exhalation to create an opening in which meaning can adhere.

Care for those in need. All these rules to give the poor the corners of fields we don’t even have, to make sure no one goes hungry in a land still to be entered. Here we see it perfectly. Everyone has the same, everyone eats the mannah and everyone gets what they need. But we remember what it was like in Egypt. That one was favored and had plenty to eat. Others nearly starved. We cannot find meaning and God unless we make sure that doesn’t happen again.

Finally, we need to look out for each other. No stumbling blocks before the blind, no insulting the deaf. To be ready for what is coming we have to care for each other. It can’t be just about the poor. Its about everyone. We have to resist the temptation to insult and belittle others so we feel better about ourselves. We have to be active in creating a community of trust. A community without nasty whispers and petty meanness. It seems so small, but this, says Moses, is what creates an opening for that which is coming.

We thought it would be about beautiful golden calves, or masses of sacrifices. Maybe meditation and yoga. And instead we hear that those practices help if we are good to each other. We are told we cannot find God and meaning unless we first open up to quiet and compassion. The world is built on love and any world we build needs love as its foundation.

We are waiting. Going. Getting ready. And hoping against hope to hear a voice, a shattering sound ringing in the world and in the depths of our hearts, that will speak. That will open up a door in our innermost selves to remind us and instruct us how to live, how to create a world that is in fact built on compassion and love.

Oh if it can only be. Because then righteousness will fill the world and joy will fill our hearts. And we will know: we were brought out to change the world, to turn this broken planet into heaven.  For this do we journey and yearn.

Wed, June 19 2024 13 Sivan 5784