Wednesday, February 4, 2015

I Looked Up Into Heaven, Lord I Saw A Mighty Sign (Bob Weir- One More Saturday Night)

Perhaps the most intellectually demanding and spiritually defining moment of a people is a communal or national revelation. According to the dictionary, a revelation is disclosure of the unknown or unrealized. Normally we associate revelation as a theological process; but there are personal revelations about life choices, relationships. For those us less spiritually developed, we might think of a revelation as a type of sign that should inspire us to make certain decisions. As individuals, we all have an “Aha moment”, a moment of clarity when the unrevealed is fully disclosed and we can proceed accordingly. But to have a national revelation; is intellectually and spiritually demanding.  Yet, that is precisely what happened on Sunday night. On Sunday evening, with over 114 million Americans and over 9 million Canadians watching Super Bowl XLIX, those approximately 123 million people and millions of others around the world who happened to be watching the final 30 seconds all had a revelation. An answer, a truth was disclosed. All these millions of people saw the answer on their televisions and computers. Even my 12 year old daughter who had no idea who was playing in the Super Bowl when the game began and now was cheering on the Seattle Seahawks experienced this revelation. Even my 14 year old daughter who, with 30 seconds left, wondered what is the big deal, since there is another inning to play; even she experienced the revelation that all these millions of people were sharing. Even more amazing, only two people failed to experience this revelation. Only two people failed to see the sign, or understand what needed to be done. Only two people! Sadly it was the Offensive Coordinator and Head Coach of Seattle that failed to experience the revelation that the rest of us millions of people shared.

This week's Parsha is Yitro. Named after Moshe father in-law, who happens to be a Midianite priest, the Parsha begins with Moshe leading B'nai Yisroel toward the wilderness of Midian where he meets up with his father in-law, his wife and his two sons. Yitro suggests that Moshe should create a bureaucracy whereby others administer the small everyday rulings required of a judge. Difficult legal issues would be administered by Moshe. Moshe is then commanded by God to bring B'nai Yisroel to Har Sinai. For three days they will purify themselves, clean their clothes, not have marital relations, and purify their souls for a revelation. There with the mountain smoking and thunder billowing from the heavens, God begins to speak. B'nai Yisroel is absolutely petrified and fearing death, they beg Moshe to go up the mountain as their Shaliach (appointed messenger). Moshe ascends the mountain and receives the Aseret HaDibrot (the Ten Commandments), then descends. Upon his descent he tells B'nai Yisroel the Aseret HaDibrot. The Parsha concludes with B'nai Yisroel readily accepting the Ten Commandments, Moshe re-assures the people not to fear the thunder and the flames, God attests to the fact that B'nai Yisroel has accepted these commandments and then commands Moshe to build and altar of earth.

While the Torah tells us that B’nai Yisroel had fear, awe, and even trepidation; none are so blinded or paralyzed that they fail to experience the revelation. VaYehi V’Yom HaShlishi B’HeYot HaBoker VaYehi Kolot UvRakim V’Anan Kaveid Al HaHar V’ Kol Shofar Chazak Meod, VaYecherad Kol Ha’Am Asher BaMachanehOn the third day when it was morning, there was thunder and lightning and a heavy cloud upon the mountain, and the sound of the shofar was very powerful, and the entire people was in the camp shuddered (Ex.19:16). Moses brings them towards God, they stand at the bottom, the mountain is smoking and smoldering like a furnace and even the mountain shudders (Ex.19:17-18). The people remain there watching this supernatural and awesome sight.  God calls out to Moses and he ascends, leaving the nation at the foot of the mountain, then he descends. The people stay there. Perhaps their scared, perhaps they are in awe, perhaps they are paralyzed in disbelief, or maybe they are experiencing some type of spiritual ecstasy.  We don’t know except that they are experiencing something. It is even fair to say that the people are experiencing something slightly different from one another since they are individuals with different perceptions. . “The substance of this faith is that a person should determine in his mind that his is the truth, and nothing else of any sort is possible instead” (Sefer HaChinuch Yitro 25).  Exodus Chapter 20 begins: VaYidaber Elokim et Kol Hadvarim Ha’Eilah Leimor – God spoke all these statements saying: Anochi Adoshem Elokecha Asher Hotzeitecha M’Eretz Mitzrayim Mibeit Avadim – I am Hashem, your God, Who has taken you out of the land of Egypt from the house of slavery. In that statement, in that brief moment a national revelation occurred. Everyone standing at the foot of that mountain had been slaves in Egypt and now were free. God’s introduction and reminder of who God is and that God brought them out of Egypt is the basis for revelation and faith. For a single moment, God’s reminder that God brought them all out of Egypt makes them worthy of a national revelation. After that moment, things became too powerful and Moshe heard the remainder of the commandments and then taught it to B’nai Yisroel. However foundation had been laid, the seed planted, the revelation disclosed.

When hundreds of millions of people watched those final seconds of the Super Bowl, they all had a shared common experience. Whether they cheered for New England, or Seattle; whether they had money on the game or not; whether they knew anything about football or not; whether they played football or not; whether they cared or not; if they had the common experience of witnessing the final 65 seconds, then they all shared that moment of disclosure and clarity along with my two daughters. All those people, because they had a shared common experience had the truth – run the ball 18 inches!  Perhaps Seattle’s head coach and offensive coordinator did not share in the common experience that we had all witnessed. Therefore they were had the moment of clarity that comes with revelation; a moment of clarity that everyone else shared.

Rav Les

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