We live in a time in which we hunger for leadership. Let’s look at the plot points in this week’s Torah portion and see what a remarkable model we find in Moses.
1. God instructs Moses in the design and the construction of the sanctuary where God promises to be near the people.
2. God gives Moses the Divinely inscribed tablets.
3. Moses comes down the mountain and destroys the tablets upon seeing the apostasy of the people and learning of their total unreadiness for Torah.
4. God offers Moses the option of leading a new people altogether, yet Moses advocates for saving the people, and God relents.
5. Moses removes the idolatrous leaders and, on behalf of the remnant, seeks God’s forgiveness, continuing presence, and a new and deeper relationship.
6. God assents and shows Moses the Divine goodness and attributes.
We move from a situation in which all seems lost to one of the keenest experiences of Divine revelation in the Bible. We receive forgiveness, restored nearness to God and a renewal of covenant promise.
Praise be unto our teacher Moses, and the Lord our God.
Some see them as cold, hard laws. Others think they must have been rules for another people who lived in another day. Yet others think they’re commandments to be followed in everyday life. Is there another perspective that might be suitable today for a diverse group of believers?
Whatever we might make of these words or commandments or rules, we know one thing for sure: they appear in Text that most people of God see as inspired by God. So, whichever camp we’re in, is there value for believers in trying to find meaning in these words?
It might take a full exploration of them to test out this hypothesis, but here’s the hypothesis: these words appear to contain Divine messages that are useful to living as God expects. In the form of commandments, they embody instructions or guidance on how we should live with our fellow human beings and other living creatures on the earth and how we are to live with God.
The Bible brings to us many principles and parables of extraordinary value. But it also goes into great detail about how we are to handle (or not handle) specific matters in our ordinary lives. And, since these words are ancient and have been captured by ancient people, they come to us often in another context than our own. So, it is especially difficult for us to see through the layers to a deeper meaning for ourselves.
But let’s make an effort to study, to find, and to see. As Tzvi Freeman has written, inspired by Rabbi Schneerson, “the words of Torah are but its clothing; the guidance within them is the body. And as with a body, within that guidance breathes a soul that gives life.”