The moment of revelation happened once. Moses and the Israelites experienced it at Sinai. Torah reflects the crystallization in words of that experience of the Divine. Yet the moment of revelation also happens every moment. The Torah calls us all the time towards love and justice and to a deep realization that love and justice reinforce each other. The laws of Mishpatim that we read this Shabbat are there to help create justice in the world, that we might see the image of God in our fellow. Law allows us to create a space within which our creativity and uniqueness can flourish. It protects us by creating limits that enable growth and flourishing.
Without these laws, the chaos that would ensue would allow only those with the greatest strength or cleverness to prevail. The rest of us would be forced into their will, becoming either servants or extraneous people, cast aside because we serve no end to those who dominate all that is. Instead, laws create a living ethic that binds all of us to justice. Power becomes balanced and limited so that everyone has room for their particular fragment of the divine to be evoked into the world.
The laws of Torah flow from a place of love. Limits and the ethics they bring into human experience allow for a flourishing that would otherwise be all too quickly stifled. And that happens because one moment of revelation was recorded, crystallized, put into words. Imagine if we worked to capture every moment of revelation!
I want to suggest that God can be felt all the time. There is a potential revelation in every moment. And we can tell when we are encountering God when we are called to love and justice. If we feel a desire to block, to control, to criticize, we are failing to encounter the Divine. By contrast, when we are inspired to notice and see the good and loving acts of others, when we are lifted up to offer care and kindness to others, then we know that we are encountering the Divine.
I believe that if we can cultivate kindness intentionally, we will be cultivating the precise tool needed at this moment to heal and repair our all too broken world. I believe that noticing the good in others will help us acquire faith; I believe that telling others of the good we see in them will inspire them to grow in their kindness. Further, as we engage in such acts of noticing and calling out goodness, I believe we will inspire others to do the same.
In this way, we can create a special inspiration and feeling in the walls of Kol Emeth that will radiate out to our homes, our communities, our places of work, and begin to inspire others to turn away from the harsh judgments and language, the daily cruelty, and towards the love that God invites.
May God grant us the strength to turn away from hatred, from anger, from contempt, and towards love and kindness, and may God let others see our example and be inspired so that we can create a wave of love that can heal our broken world.
Rabbi David Booth
Please note that there will be no CyberTorah the next two weeks. I’ll resume the week after Purim.