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
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.