Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Torah Connection - Mishpatim

Mishpatim -- the Laws -- continue scattered throughout the next several books of the Torah.  Much Biblical analysis has gone into interpreting these laws so that they continue to be relevant in today's society, but I don't want to go there.  Either the laws are acceptable as they are for all ages, or they were made for their time and place.  If we re-interpret them to suit today's world, then we are making G*d in our own image.  I think that accepting them in their own context, as one step in the civilization of the People of Israel, does not require following them to the letter today.  Everyone draws the line somewhere.  Some don't bother keeping kosher, some are dismissive of the sexual restrictions, but even the most Orthodox do not follow the prescribed penalties for the various transgressions.  At most they use the aforementioned re-interpretation to deduce principles of compensation in human relationships.

There is a short passage describing the major festivals -- Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles).  Then Moses and the leaders of the people prepare to ascend Mt. Sinai to receive the Tablets of the Covenant.

At this point, is a most incredible description:

24:10 They saw a vision of the G*d of Israel, and under His feet was something like a sapphire brick, like the essence of a clear [blue] sky.

and a little later, the whole people see the following vision:

24:17 To the Israelites, the appearance of G*d's glory on the mountain top was like a devouring flame.

Compare this to the vision with the Burning Bush at the beginning of the book of Exodus:

3:2 God's angel appeared to [Moses] in the heart of a fire, in the middle of a thorn-bush. As he looked, [Moses] realized that the bush was on fire, but was not being consumed.

What does it mean to be touched by the Divine? What is this burning fire, or this bejeweled clear blue sky "at the feet of" the Divine Presence? 

1 comment:

  1. This divine picnic that the leaders had (it says right by this verse "they ate and they drank") does come to teach us something specific about how Jews encounter God. On the one hand, God is as accessible as ordinary acts of eating and drinking, and the whole people can perceive the effects of the divine, not just the leaders. But one of my teachers, Rabbi Howard Handler, noticed what's missing: by emphasizing what was below God's actual essence (God's "body" if God had a body, God's "feet") the Torah stresses that any vision of God is truly impossible -- and not even just impossible, but really unimaginable. We don't see God -- but as the Shma implies, we hear God, as a commanding Voice that summons us to our better selves, however we parse the concept of mitzvah.


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