Staged Presence: Mishpatim 2022

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Which people in your life make the biggest difference to you when they’re near you? When they’re far away from you? How do you act differently when they are away from your presence?

As the experience of God is wholly different than the experience of other humans, it stands to reason that God’s presence at Mount Sinai would be unlike anything else the Israelites had experienced:

The Pitch: “Now the Presence of the LORD appeared in the sight of the Israelites as a consuming fire on the top of the mountain.” – Exodus 24:17

Swing #1: “Typically, in the Bible at least, the revelation is not of God Himself but rather of a second-level manifestation of His presence; not His being, but events that He brought about. What the biblical community was asked to perceive was a complex pattern of events in nature and history.” – Neil Gillman, Sacred Fragments

Swing #2: “The proof whether one’s worship causes the glory of the Lord to appear before him, is whether one feels within himself a devouring fire, a yearning for God as fiery as the flame which burns upon the altar.” – Kedushat Levi

Swing #3: “Moses may have stood in the place where God was, but he had no lucid vision of the divine. The biblical writers made it clear that the kavod of Yahweh was not God himself; it was, as it were, a mere afterglow of God’s presence on earth, essentially and crucially separate from the divine reality itself, which would always be beyond human ken.” – Karen Armstrong, The Case For God

Late-Inning Questions: What’s the point of God being present with the Israelites without actually being present? Do you think it’s because they wouldn’t be able to fathom God’s presence in its purest form? Or do you think God is simply being mysterious? Are other people more intriguing when they are just a bit mysterious?

On-Deck at TBT: Our Kesher Committee is co-sponsoring a Winter Clothing Drive with the Buffalo Jewish Community Relations Council to benefit the International Rescue Committee Welcome Center in its ongoing effort to welcome and aid refugees. Support this initiative by dropping off new or gently-used items Sunday, February 6th, between 2:00-4:00 p.m. at TBT, or by bringing the items here during office hours by Thursday, February 10th, or bringing or sending a donation to TBT (subject: Kesher Coat Drive).

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of being mysterious, it always bothered me when Sammy Sosa was revealed to have used a corked bat in 2003, and his manager, Dusty Baker, said he didn’t know whether it was actually Sosa’s bat – and had he known, he wouldn’t tell. Maybe it isn’t so strange that Dusty now manages the Houston Astros, a team with a recent history of cheating.

Shabbat Shalom!