By Marcel Saxone
I believe that imagination plus knowledge leads to creativity.
My writing is about using the little knowledge I have, and combine it with my imagination that has no limits, to generate creative responses to the Hebrew Scriptures.
My hope is that my creative response will also awaken the reader’s imagination, so together we can create something even bigger, and both move closer to the Ultimate Creator.
This week’s Torah portion provides essential clues on getting closer to G-d.
Firstly, a major premise is G-d lives in the present, past, and future simultaneously, and has no concept of time as we know it. Thus generally, we have an opportunity to draw closer to Hashem, by encountering Him in the present, past and future as best we can. In the moment time stands still, G-d dwells.
Engaging with G-d in the past is easy. As G-d informs Moses, “I shall remove My hand and you will see My back” (after G-d has passed). Thus the Torah written thousands of years ago is relevant today.
We can easily exhort G-d for a better future, encouraged by His words in the Parsha “Preserver of Kindness for thousands of generations”
However, our efforts to encounter G-d in the moment, seem to be fraught with danger, “You will not be able to see My face, for no human can see My face and live.”
In the Parsha further G-d informs us our relationship with Him is complex when He declares, “I shall show favour, when I choose to show favour, and I shall show mercy, when I choose to show mercy”. Words indicating G-d is not easily flattered, or beguiled by our praises, nor our actions to appease Him. Praying that we will be better Jews in the future, and asking forgiveness for our past transgressions, does not automatically lead to G-d’s acquiescence. Piety as an effort to engage with Hashem in the moment does not guarantee one favourable response by G-d. Of course piety does not mean there won’t be a favourable response. The Jew-G-d relationship as stated, is complex.
In addition the Parsha states clearly, the iniquity of parents is carried by the third and the fourth generations. Living a pious life today, does not preclude being punished for the transgressions of our great grandparents.
True intimacy can only occur in the present. Love affairs based on future predictions, or past experiences lack substance. It would mean if I only loved my wife because of her good looks when she was young, then by default I would lose interest in her as she ages she aged. G-d seeks our love NOW.
The Parsha offers a way of encountering Hashem in the moment.
The two Tablets of Stone mentioned in the Parsha, hold the key. They contain the Ten Commandments, the most exemplary moral code on HOW humans need to live their lives. The messages the tablets hold are unequivocal, and ensure living life with a mutual respect for one another, a positivity towards all sentient beings, and to the planet. This is only possible through deep connections, only possible when we are fully engaged with life in the present moment.
I believe reinstating the Ten Commandments to its position of importance and reverence, provides us with access to the ultimate moral code, a template on how to live a good and true life. A life where we are truly connected with all sentient beings and with the planet.
Since it is nigh well impossible for us to connect with G-d in the moment, as Moses, the greatest of all prophets found, surely the next best thing is to connect with his creations.
What does all this have to do with Sukkot?
Living in the moment is the most difficult thing for many people to do, exemplified by the never ending “to do lists” we carry in our heads, always taking us away into an unknown future, and often driven by negativities in our past. However, the present is the only time we are at our most vulnerable, able to show our true humanity. This is the encounter Hashem needs from us.
Living in booths is a ritual, and rituals generally do not make sense. We could celebrate Sukkot by simply reading the scriptures, in the comfort of our air conditioned home, rain and wind free, yet Hashem dictates us taking action, and with Melbourne’s weather in Spring, inconveniencing ourselves at times as well. This ritual increases our vulnerability and our humanity.
Rituals by their nature compel us to experience the moment, because they are ‘unknowing’, just like the Unknown. This idea of being ‘unknowing’ takes us out of our frontal lobes, where endless planning, categorising, thinking and remembering occurs, leaving us to simply experience the ritual unprotected by our usual defence mechanisms, thereby getting closer to G-d.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach