In the Torah reading for Hol HaMoed Pesakh we re-read about Moshe’s second time on the mountain (after the Golden Calf incident) and the second set of tablets.
This passage includes many well worn highways and byways, among them G”d’s self-description (which, truth be told, is not all that accurate a self-description.) Not today’s topic.
It concludes with another well worn piece of text about not boiling a kid in its mother’s milk. On such few words is built an entire segment of the kashrut laws. Truth be told, I don’t think the rabbis were so successful with this one. Not today’s topic.
In the haftarah, we revisit Ezekiel’s valley of the dry bones. Can these bones live? Only their hairdresser knows for sure? In any case, not today’s topic.
So what is today’s topic? It’s one that I had often thought to muse about when it came up in the regular Torah reading rotation in parashat Ki Tissa. It’s the “G”d’s backside” incident.
Moshe asks to behold G”d’s presence. God tells Moshe to stand in a cleft in the rock, and G”d will pass him by.
That’s what G”d says will happen. Guess what’s missing from the text? There absolutely no assertion in the text that G”d actually did so!
You’d think that such a glorious and magnificent moment would call for some serious prose or poetic imagery. What do we get? Bupkis. It’s left entirely to our imagination.
Of course, I hear some say, that’s exactly the point-it’s left to our imagination. The experience might be totally different for each one of us, were we granted such an opportunity. So describing it would be pointless.
That’s not good enough for me. At least we need a teaser, the biblical equivalent of the famous line from 2001: A Space Odyssey, “My G”d, it’s full of stars!”
The author(s) of Torah, whoever he/she/it (they) is/are passed up an incredible literary opportunity. Or, perhaps such a passage was there, and later expurgated by some redactor with the strong belief that such specific visages should be left to the imagination, or the belief that it somehow reduces G”d to something too real and tangible.
I’m going to occupy my Shabbat with attempts to make a midrash here, to fill in the blanks, and describe the actual encounter that is only hinted at in the text. I commend the same to you. what would it be like to have G”d allow G”d’self to be seen as G”d passes you by? what would you see, sense, taste, feel, experience? I’d love to hear your stories, and perhaps someday I’ll share mine as well.
©2010 by Adrian A. Durlester