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Friday, February 18, 2011

Parshat Ki Tissa: Beyond the Golden Calf

This week's  parashah Ki Tissa (Shemot/Exodus 30:11-34:35) includes the all-too-familiar narrative of the Golden Calf. After Moses smashes the Tablets of the Ten Commandments and destroys the Calf, Moses ascends Mt. Sinai for a second time in order to receive a new set of tablets from God.

While on the mountain, Moses experiences what we might call a crisis of faith.  He tells God in no uncertain terms that God must be in the lead as they commence their journey.  In addition, Moses implores God to be able to see God’s “face” – to know God’s true essence.  Moses tells God that he cannot continue to lead the people if God does not meet his demands (my words, not the Torah’s).

God tells Moses that no one can see the Divine Face and live.  Instead, God places Moses in the cleft of a rock and allows the Divine Glory to “pass” Moses.  As God passes, God proclaims what we refer to as the 13 attributes of God, including God’s mercy and compassion, as well as God’s justice and anger.  When Moses looks up, he is only able to see God’s “back,” or the result of God’s presence in the world. 

This is enough for Moses and he is prepared to write a new set of tablets, return to the people and continue the journey.  This is a poetic commentary based on that experience.

Brokenness to Wholeness

I need certainty
     I need  you with me
each moment
 I need to know you

I   we  cannot
go on without knowing
     you are with us  leading

I cannot
we cannot
I stop   listen  hear
 your reply to me   us

 I am here    you say
you  are  my   people
you  are special

 on your journey
 I will be with you

 I hear
 I believe
 yet I don’t

you know me
 you know us
 by name
but  I    we
 know nothing of you

 please I implore    beg   plead
show me     you
 let me experience
 all of you

 you respond
I cannot  see your face
  only your back

this is not enough
I want   need   insist on
for me to lead the people
 into the unknown

 to heal the wounds
 make whole the broken
after the tragedy
 I must know you beyond seeing
        I need to know not just your name
but the essence of your being

 you say
 I will die if I see you
 I believe I am lost
if I do not
experience more

 I hear God’s reply

 I carve the tablets
 waiting for you
 I climb the mountain
 still    wanting       waiting    needing
more than I know
 you will ever  give

suddenly all is darkness
I hear your voice
I feel your love    compassion    anger
    everything that is your essence
 in that moment      I know
 deep  within   my   soul
 you shall forgive  punish  absolve  blame

my eyes see nothing
   my soul sees everything
        knowing we shall all
             be healed
 through your compassion
          justice         mercy
bringing the people together
     bringing  me  closer
           to   you
 always here with us
       within us

 my eyes suddenly open
 I see the new tablets
 carved by my hands
     awaiting your words
 whole    unbroken 
     a shining remembrance
       of your compassion
          the other tablets
a shattered remembrance
   of what was
      what the people did
 placed  side by side
 inextricable link   lifechain   
from brokenness to wholeness
 and back
 neverending cycle
returning us to you
   always with us
leading each of us
 each moment

we must stop
pay attention
   look within
I   know  now
no longer doubting
this is the truth
I no longer need 
  to see your face
 in order to find   certainty
   I am  content    whole
 I am ready
   to move on
into the unknown
that you will make known
in your time

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