The readings for this Shabbat are filled with drama and powerful images. Exodus 33:12-34:26 forms the reading for this Shabbat morning and an assigned Haftorah is drawn from Ezekiel 37:1-14. Our Torah portion reflects upon a famous scene of Moses being called to write a second set of tablets; having broken the first ones out of anger upon seeing the Israelites dancing around the Golden Calf.
Then there is the famous scene of Moses in the cleft of a rock, trying to see God and in the end, affirming the attributes of God, a piece of Torah that has found its way into liturgy.
Another set of tablets. Do they replace that which was broken? No. Tradition tells us that the two sets exist. I think that this speaks to all of us as we age. No one ages with out some sense or memory of things in life that were broken. A relationship, a dream, an outcome that did not come to pass; and often these events weigh upon us in such a way that our own soul becomes shattered. How many of us, at some time in our life, have said that we have reached a “breaking point”? This pandemic is a symbol of this. Physical isolation has the potential of allowing for spiritual isolation. For so many, lives, routines, plans and the like have been “broken”.
Judaism, however, is a religious civilization that ultimately rebounds with hope. The Ezekiel passage is the famous dry bones passage. It speaks to us, especially this year, not in a literal sense of the text, but, I suggest, in the symbolic sense that there is hope for what will come. There is a second chance at living and life, if we but focus on the future and the Jewish value of tikvah–hope!
The new set of tablets going with the first; that which is joins with that which was. Such is the drama of our own life and we play out that drama, as best we can, with a hope that what shall come in the future will allow us to grow and evolve as human beings in a way that continues to bring honor and respect to the basic belief of being inGod’s image: tzelem elohim
Shabbat shalom and Chag S’maeach.
Rabbi Richard F Address