Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah – Sh’mot
It’s Christmas eve. According to Christian tradition, tomorrow is the birthday of the world’s most famous Jew. In Christian tradition, it is the day God comes to Earth incarnate. In its essence, it is a story about God. The Bible (Jewish and Christian) teems with stories about God. The Quran does, as well. In fact, religious traditions all over the world evolve their traditions around God stories.
Maybe I am missing something. Each of our traditions owns stories about God. Each of them espouses a belief in a God – a single God – a single God of creation – of all of creation. A God omnipotent and omnipresent. We have different names for this God. We celebrate different approaches to this same God. This same God.
Too many people hate the concept that their version of that same God isn’t the only version out there. People get upset when someone uses a God name or story different than the one they want to believe is the only one that exists.
“Aeleh shemot …” “These are the names …” Ok, the Torah text begins by speaking about the names of the tribes of Israel, but the whole “God’s name” controversy happens this week, as well. Moses will meet God at the burning bush. God will instruct Moses to go to Egypt and confront Pharaoh. Pharaoh enslaved Israel, and Moses was now supposed to go and fix it.
Moses asks a reasonable question, “Who are you? Who shall I say sent me?” God responds, “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh – I am.” God is not “George,” “Mary Sue,” or any other proper name. God is a job description. Allah, Adonai, Elohim, etc are different language words defining the job description. When God responds to Moses, God simply says, “Tell them I exist.” “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” is simply a form of the verb “to be.”
Think of the dismissive indignations – the violence we bring against each other forcing names for God that even God never exclusively owned. Think of the way in which people demean and dismiss other traditions who see God as the forces of nature, the patriarch or matriarch of a pantheon of powerful identities, the old wise-One on the mountain top, or the indescribable foundation of all existence – in ways other than the way they see. Near the end of the book of Job, God screamed from the whirlwinds, “Where were you when I spread out the heavens and the earth?!?” Effectively, “What makes you think you can define me or limit me in any way? You have no idea!” This, of course, comes after over thirty chapters of Job deciding what God is, what God does, and how horrible God must be.
In truth, we are clueless. Yet, rather than open our eyes and our hearts to the possibilities of divinity, we put God in our box and cast all others from God’s presence, as if God ordained us to be the divine Bouncer.
I believe that divinity is. I cannot tell you what IT is. I have no interest in fashioning God to be in my image. I find the ambiguity of God’s “appearance and demeanor” in the variety of world scriptures to be far more engaging than a finite God could ever be. God is. I can look in the eyes of any form of life and see God staring back at me. Rather than feel threatened by something alien to my current understanding, I feel blessed to know that the boundaries of God are even further than anything I thought I could imagine. I find reassurance and affirmation in believing that the possibilities of blessing are also beyond the realm of my understanding. In faith, I journey to learn more and more – to appreciate more today than I understood could exist yesterday. I am blessed every day.