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Thursday, March 7, 2019

Shemot Chazak!

Image result for stargate

The second book ends this week. Exodus, Shemot finishes with the miskan coming to life. It's an awesome moment. Moshe has all the fixtures and parts of it all laid out before him. The people have rallied and offered up with their hearts their very best work in service to make this thing and the vestments of the priesthood. Aaron and his sons are anointed for soon the physical burden of the tribes will be upon their literal shoulders as the breastplate and ephod that reads holy unto the lord.   

It's been such a communal endeavor but suddenly that seems to shift. Moses sees the work and blesses the people. He has a chat with God and gets a go-live date if you will. 
Then it reads, in 40.17 the time came and in .18 Moses reared up the tabernacle, and laid its sockets, and set up the boards, and put in the bars, and reared up its pillars. 40.19 he spread the tent over the tabernacle and put the covering of the tent above upon it. 40.20 And he took and put the testimony into the ark, and set the staves on the ark and put the ark cover above upon the ark.  40.21 and he brought the ark into the the tabernacle, and set up the veil of the screen, and screened the ark of the testimony....    
It goes on like this with Moses doing these things as instructed by the Lord till 40.33 so Moses finished the work. 40.34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 

I work on the side as a stage hand and we had a Broadway production pull into town this past week. It took a crew of some fifty of us to assemble and set the stage. We were all broken into teams based on specialty and led by a member of the road crew. That's how road shows get done. They show up in a few heavy trucks and the local stage hand guild called up people and we mob in and meet the handful of regulars and make it happen. Unloading the truck, unpacking all the parts, setting it all in place. And after the curtain falls we'll swarm upon the theater and do it all in reverse so we can send the show on down the road that night. Teams of random people who all have some other employment come together and build these traveling shows. We're not players, we don't appear in the show. We're not production apart from a couple folks, we're just the stage hands. Like a sub tribe of Levies.
So it seemed odd, to have one man setting up all of the tabernacle, by himself. It seems super human and beyond reason, but it also reminded me of when I worked in the energy industry. I was involved in building pipelines that carried high pressure natural gas. Lesson one, we often joked, what that it (the methane) was only worth something because it burned. It could be very dangerous work and it was impossible to do without many hands. Even with advance machinery to lift and carry and dig, it only reduced the hands on portion fractionally. But there came a time in each build when we did a pressure safety systems test and the pipeline would be filled with water and pressurized with air to well over a thousand pounds per square inch of pressure. Gauges were watched for a fall in pressure and it had to hold in this state for hours in order to pass the test before it could be finished and put into service.

Was Moshe making the final set up himself because he wasn't sure what would happen? Were systems so critical that only he could make the final walk thru before the system came on line?

I also thought back to an old favorite movie. Stargate. What is the tabernacle? What did it mean that once Moses had finished the presence of the Lord came down and filled the tent such that even Moses could not enter?

Neal Tyson DeGrasse commented on extra terrestrial life and intelligence once. He asked that if you were out walking on the sidewalk and you saw a worm there would you stop to address it? (I myself have an alarming habit of addressing everything, but the common Josef on the street?) he surmised that you probably wouldn't as what good would it do. Our common intelligence is too far apart to make it meaningful and thus why bother. He went on to suggest that if some alien life had wandered by they might have observed us and decided similarly, no point in speaking to worms, they wouldn't get it anyhow.

In the case of the Ein Sof I'm left wondering if we're in a similar but more benevolent situation. The Ein Sof is by definition un knowable to us. The mystics theorized that the great enveloping nature of the universal was too above and beyond our ability or perhaps our psychology to manage. They spoke to the notion that we are not actually separate from this divinity but rather a part of it that was granted a unique perspective. We were allowed to think that we are separate from the Truth of the universe and to the point that the Universal could not achieve self realization without something seemingly other to work with. 

To play on Degrasse, try and imagine that you were utterly alone. There was no one else in the universe, in fact there was nothing else in the universe. How do you know you exist? What if like Dr. Seuss, you had a Horton hears a Who moment and it was coming from inside you. Some part of the biome of your body. Our insides and digestive tract in particular have a rich and complex variety of life in them that is unique and not in fact us! What if you found a way to manifest in an intelligibly way to some part of your internal fauna? What if it answered you back in the positive? You know they are there doing things for you in a holistic way but now you know for sure you are not alone. What if you wanted to make a better bridge for communication and you taught the first one you contacted how to align things to make that possible?  It's a crude metaphor but I hope it works.

Did Moses receive instructions on how to assemble a structure, in a place and in a time that would function as a communications bridge so that the unknowable could penetrate into its own sub routine and make itself more known?

I think I'd want to clear everyone out of there before I turned it on as well! Then we get on with Vayyikra, Leviticus, the laws for the priests.  Does is seem out of order? Wouldn't you want to train the priests before you started up the mishkan for a test drive? We constantly volley between the communal and the singular. Moments when it is impossible to continue alone as when Jethro came to his son in-law to advise him on management, reminding him that he is not alone. Moments when it is impossible for us to be alone as when we read the haggadah, for we survived our hardship together and left Egypt as a multitude. Moments when the one reaches out to the many and the many reach out for the one.

God reached through Moses to us asking that we build a space that he may dwell in us. Moses took our work, the pieces of our hearts we gave willingly and assembled the instrument of the divine dwelling out of us. 

Chazak, chazak, v'nitchazeik. 


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