Friday, December 28, 2007

Parashat Shemot – 2007

ויאמר אל תקרב הלם של נעליך מעל רגליך כי המקום אשר אתה עומד עליו אדמת קדש הוא:
שמות פרק ג פסוק ה

We moved from the outer walls to the public square. From there, we entered the inner sanctum. We were not in a model of the Bet HaMikdash; we were in a football stadium. Nineteen camp directors, part of a leadership program, we were gaining a different perspective on customer service. They took us through underbelly of the stadium, the board room, and the field – a portrait of awe and grandeur, and then escorted us into the most sacred of places: the home team’s clubhouse. Among the group were childhood fans of the team. Their eyes welled up at the power of the moment.

They told us several times that this was an honor reserved for only the most special of groups. They demanded only one thing of us: do not, under any circumstances, tread on the team logo in the plush carpet in the center of the room. Stanchions surrounded The Dolphin in the carpet and we stood a safe distance away reverently paying respects. At least one childhood fan found a seat and let the moment wash over him. He did not remove his shoes and nothing was asked of him. If just being in the presence of The Dolphin was so overwhelming, imagine what would have happened if it started moving in the carpet, swimming without water, and making demands of him.

Moshe Rabbenu, our greatest t teacher, didn’t enter a football stadium. The ground he stood on was not soft or comfortable and what he saw remained neither silent nor facile. Walking in the wasteland, Moshe climbed a humble mountain. He found no stadium seating but a few uncomfortable rocks. He did not watch the action on the world’s largest HD superscreen; rather, he saw it right in front of him, in a small shrub, burning but not being consumed by the flames. And he did not hear a roaring crowd of seventy thousand; he heard a single, solitary voice call out to him, make its presence known and then give him a mission to rescue the Israelites and humanity. That voice did not command him to put on battle gear – pads, helmets, etc – symbols of the glory of the battle, but to remove his shoes, a gesture of humility and sanctity.

At one point in life, Moshe was surrounded by glory and advantage. He had virtually everything material one could imagine in his world, but it was not enough, for “stuff” never did, nor does, fill the hunger of the soul. So he fled the world of privilege, shed the clothes of glory, and wandered. One day, he stumbled upon the place, and discovered meaning and mission. He went to battle for freedom with nothing more than a staff and a soul, a charge and a mission-giver. And he was victorious.

Like Moshe, we need to seek out the places where we can experience God, where we can hear the Voice, where we can perceive the greater good that we are to contribute to society. It might be at a stadium or in a mall (personally, I would love to hear that voice in Wrigley Field, crying out from the vines in the outfield, assuring me that this will actually be The Year, that the Messiah is no longer tarrying, and telling me clearly what my part of the work is. – who knows) but probably not. It is difficult to squelch out the noise in those places – visual, oral, virtual and material – to perceive that which is most important. It is in that still small voice, in the quiet, less traveled place, where we find the meaning our souls crave and the mission by which the meaning will be translated into action.

Moshe’s journey, and ours, starts this week. We know how his ends. We get to choose how ours will.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Loren Sykes

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