(Quick Comment Parashat Mishpatim 21:1 – 24:18)
Words are the imperfect tools humans use to describe the indescribable. In this week’s Torah portion Moses and the elders of Israel have a spectacular encounter with the Eternal One:
They “(ויראו/ ויחזזו) saw God (Exodus 24:10, 11).”
With imperfect tools—words—the Bible describes God’s feet on “a paved work like sapphire stone as clear as the heavens (Exodus 24:9).”
When Michael Hyman, now a renowned entrepreneur in the software world, studied with me for his Bar Mitzvah nearly 40 years ago, he described the vision as God riding the heavenly waves on “a sapphire surfboard.”
This awesome description notwithstanding, the Torah insists, “No one can see my (God’s) face and live (Exodus 33:20).”
The vision of the “sapphire surfboard” gave the elders a short-term shot of faith, but it did not last. When Moses did not return from the mountaintop as soon as they expected, the people demanded “a god we can see,” and Aaron made them a golden calf. (Exodus 32:1-4)
Faith does not always come from spectacular visions like “the sapphire surfboard.”
Elijah the prophet could not find God in thunder or lightning but in the “still small voice” within (I Kings 19:12).
But even that moment did not last. When Elijah felt despair and that his efforts were for naught (I Kings 19:14), God instructed him to anoint Elisha to carry on his work (I Kings 19:16).
Enduring faith is faith that inspires others!
May we, like the Elders of Israel and Elijah, experience moments of amazement that words cannot adequately describe. And before the flame of our inspiration wanes, may it kindle faith in others that inspires them to work—however they can—to create a more just, caring and compassionate society on earth.