by Judy Shepard Gomez - September 20, 2013
Shabbat Shalom, and thank you for sharing this beautiful Shabbat Sukkot with our eighth grade class and the rest of our Temple Emanu-El community.
As I was reading this portion of Ki Tisa from the Book of Exodus, I was reminded of the first day of Religious School after a long wonderful summer of lazy days on vacation, on the beach, or at camp. We (kids, parents, grandparents) suddenly realize that this summer vacation is over and that we are going to have to wake up early and join togethe
r again with our classmates, our Rabbis and Cantor, and our teachers, and get back into the routine of coming into Temple early and reconnecting in a more structured way with our Jewish life. Don't we feel a combination of excitement about seeing all our Temple friends again, and a little bit of anxiety—did we forget everything we learned before, will we remember the prayers, the holidays, the songs, what it means to be Jewish?
In this portion, Moses is put in a similar position. He is called back to Mt. Sinai—called back by God to be reminded in a kind of review class: why he has been the one through whom God will transmit the meaning of their covenant to the Jewish people. Moses will be the one to explain the guidelines for holy days and festivals, and to explain the values that God hopes the Israelites will embrace as they participate in this sacred trust between themselves and God, and even more important, among themselves as a people. Moses also has mixed feelings, feelings of awe and gratitude, and more than a little bit of anxiety and fear of the responsibility, and the consequences of not fulfilling the promise. Because of course, God doesn't mince words! He lays it all out there for Moses to see!
But God also offers Moses, and all of us, a most precious and beautiful gift of recognizing that we are never alone in this task. We are protected, and the presence of God is always there if we are open to see it, feel it, let it into our minds and hearts.
"And I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim before you the name Eternal, and the grace that I grant and the compassion that I show. See, there is a place near Me. Station yourself on the rock, and as My Presence passes by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock and shield you with My hand until I have passed by."
Aren't we all together on that rock—the Earth itself, here in Tucson Arizona? Isn't the presence of God passing by, in each and every person we meet during the day, from our family, to our schoolmates, or workmates, to the person who checks us out at the supermarket? How can we remind ourselves of that presence, so that we bring the goodness and compassion God shows us to everyone in our world? Isn't that what our convenant really asks us to do—to use our words, our energy, our talents , and relationships, as a channel to transmit to the world, the gift that has been given to us—the gift of goodness and compassion?
Let us all recommit to be that channel, to use each encounter with every human being, to see God in that person, and not the superficial features of the person we are mad at, disappointed in, or disagree with. If we can strive for that kind of holiness on a daily basis, the presence of God will surround us always, and our blessings will then radiate to the whole world.