Sh’mot: A Theology of Personal Liberation

We begin a new book this week, the book of Exodus. So much to think about in this first portion. The transition of the Hebrews from favored to exploited people, the “call” of Moses and the story of Moses’ youth and the trappings of his humility. Yet, I want to look at the issue of his “call” which, for some reason, seems to speak to us on this eve of a new secular year.
The story of the “burning bush” is famous. Here Moses is “called” and, as anyone would, he asks for some identification. The Hebrew in many newer translations is left untranslated. “Ehyeh Asher Eyheh” (often rendered “I am that I am”) speaks to a sense of evolution and evolving. Now there are many many interpretations of this passage. But, let me suggest that one of them can speak directly to an issue that confronts so many of us, especially as we get a little older.
To me this passage offers a sense of liberation and freedom. To me it says that no matter what age we are, and even more important as we age, we are given the freedom to explore new ideas and definitions of what God means to us. So often we become fixed with a God concept that really has no relevance to us at our age. Too many of us still walk around with a God concept that may have accompanied us as we left the “bimah” on our Bar or Bat Mitzvah or Confirmation. Our own journey of life has given us challenges and opportunities for growth; how much the more so do we need to adapt our concept of what we call God to reflect that journey. And it is this passage which, to me, gives us that charge.
Think about it! Judaism is a religious belief system that says to each of us that we are encouraged to constantly evolve our belief system as we, ourselves, evolve as human beings. Sadly, we are rarely challenged by institutional Judaism to do that. Yet, the possibility and the opportunity is always there; much like that voice from that bush. Perhaps some of us, as this year 2016 dawns, will find the courage or need to revisit, revise and reinvent how we choose to define what God is in our life. It is this passage in Exodus 3 that opens the door for this pursuit. So may it be.
Shabbat Shalom and have a sweet and healthy 2016
Rabbi Richard F Address, D.Min

About Rabbi Richard Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.

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