If you were cast away on an island with just one Jewish text for company, which would you choose?
This week Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers, community educator at the Movement for Reform Judaism, selects Exodus 33:18-23
Exodus 33:18-23 forms the foundation of much of my philosophy and theology, my dialogue and, I hope, my open heart. I am delighted I can offer it in the week of Shavuot as for me, while it may not be the core of the revelatory experience, it is astounding that it is a part of our textual religious heart and is read at various key points in the year.
Moses asks to see all of God’s glory, and is refused. All he is allowed is a glimpse of God’s back! If even Moses, our greatest leader who is continually found in conversation with the Eternal, cannot see all of God and survive, what hope do I have?
This means anything I can know of God can only ever be a limited glimpse, just as much as I can cope with, and I am extremely limited. This also leaves an expanse of space for another person to hold a glimpse of that truth, and to enlighten me by sharing it.
Rather than me trying to understand who is right, perhaps we are all wrong, because our small glimpses only serve to limit the expanse that is the Divine.
Indeed, if 600,000 stood around Mount Sinai and all experienced the revelation through their limited human lenses (and with only a partial view, for no one could see every angle around the mountain at once), perhaps it is only when we gather en masse that we come close to being able to express anything true about this ultimate truth.
Exodus 33 provides me with a reminder that I need to remember my humility, for I do not have all the truth, and I need to listen to everyone I encounter, for they may possess another glimpse.