For the week of September 29, 2007 / 17 Tishri 5768
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 33:12 - 34:26;
Bemidbar / Numbers 29:17-22
Haftarah: Ezekiel 38:18 - 39:16
A Most Basic of Basics
Then Moses said to him, "If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?" (Shemot / Exodus 33:15,16)
The Festival of Sukkot (English: Tabernacles or Booths), a week-long celebration, beginning this year the evening of Wednesday, September 26, is a "back to basics" festival. The Torah tells us that Sukkot was to serve as a reminder of how the Israelites lived in the wilderness for forty years after leaving Egypt (see Vayikra/ Leviticus 23:42,43).
The wilderness years were a time of extreme vulnerability, but it was also a time when the reality of God was most apparent. The people had to rely on God in a way they would not have to once they settled the Promised Land. In the wilderness they ate miraculous bread called Manna and more than once required a miraculous provision of water. In the Land, while they would still need to rely on God, they would establish permanent dwellings and farms.
Once the people settled the Land and had more or less a normal existence, they would like most people tend to think that their provision and protection was something derived from themselves instead from God. God's directive to live in makeshift huts during the week of Sukkot was intended to help the people to remember who their provider and protector really was.
When Shabbat falls in the midst of the week of Sukkot, Shemot (English: Exodus) 33:12-34:26 is read. This passage includes an interchange between Moses and God following the sin of the golden calf. Moses pleads with God that, in spite of the people's sinful behavior, God's presence would continue to be with them to guide them to the Promised Land.
Moses understood a most basic of basics: God's people required God's presence. God's people are to be a people, who not only tell stories about God and his exploits, they are to be a people with whom God himself dwells.
Is this not the most basic of basics of which Sukkot should remind us? The busy-ness of day-to-day life may contain references to God and his existence, but how often do we take the time to ask ourselves if God himself is really with us. We might have religion in our lives, but do we have God? We may fill our minds with spiritual concepts, but is God actually directing us?
Moses knew that there was no sense continuing on without God being with them. That those who don't believe in God don't give this any thought is understandable, but for those of us who claim to have faith in the God of Israel, do we share Moses' perspective? Does it matter to us whether or not God is really in our midst to lead us? Do we take the time to even notice?
There is so much that goes on in the name of religion and of God, but how much of it truly has God in its midst? Instead of being like Moses, who desperately cried out for God's presence, we are too easily satisfied with our traditions and so-called spiritual activities. We blindly accept the claims of others who tell us that God is in our midst, even though the evidence is to the contrary.
But what's the use of going on without him? What's the point of all of our busy-ness unless God is leading the way? Moses knew that. What about you?
E-mail this TorahBytes to someone? Click here
To have TorahBytes e-mailed to you weekly