Saturday, January 18, 2014

Parshat Yitro, (Exodus 20:15-20:23)-1/18/2014

So, besides going to two Torah classes a week, two Jewish meditation sessions (one with a service), and now a Friday night services, I've been listening to Rabbi Gordon from tell me what the Parshah means.

Luckily, many others must be listening to Rabbi Gordon today, because the server must be so overloaded that rather than video I'm just getting audio ... and only about a sentence every five or ten minutes.

It was my original intention to connect the Torah to my life. That seems to be one interpretation of the term "oral Torah." And yet I seem to be avoiding that goal. I did just hear a TED talk about how when we tell someone our goals we are less likely to pursue them. One explanation of this is that we have fulfilled our social obligation by sharing our goal, so now we don't have to do it. But I will ... tomorrow.

In this Parshat God wants to talk to the people but they will have no part of it. They just want to hear his words from Moses. “but let God not speak with us lest we die.”

This wasn't the last time people didn't want to hear anything from the horse's mouth. Many Buddhists trust more the commentary than Buddha's words. And Zen people have their own literature and skip over most of what the Buddha said. Students of psychology might never read Sigmund Freud.

We all want translators, interpreters. When Robert Frost was asked what a poem meant, he replied, “Do you want me to tell you in other and worse language?”

The people saw God's voice, but feared hearing it “... or lest we die.” I think, continuing the thought that God is in each of us, that we want to get acceptance from others about our path, or whether we have done a good job. Maybe the voice we don't want to hear is our own voice. That is the God who tells us the truth. I remember in college when a therapist told me, “You are your own best expert.” I thought to myself, “No, it is my mother that knows me best.” (Oh, now I revealed something about myself.)

God then tells Moses that they should not have Gods of gold or silver like the Egyptians worshipped. And that the altar be made of whole stones, not hewn stones. Stones are hewn with a sword, so the stone becomes desecrated. Supposedly, the altar is made to lengthen man's days, and iron, since it makes swords, shortens man's days. Counterproductive. So stones shouldn't be hewn. Makes sense?

At the end of this Parshah, God tells Moses that there should be no steps to the altar, because then “nakedness” would be exposed. With the dress of the day, it was difficult to walk up steps without revealing more that should be revealed. A slight (and smooth) ramp is called for, where no exposure was possible.

Up the smooth path to the altar

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