You know, for such a short parasha, Yitro is sure full of major happenings. Yitro comes to visit his son-in-law, and offers him some friendly advice. His simple advice to Moshe has become the framework for judicial administration for the last few millennia.
Then the people arrive at Sinai. G"d speaks to Moshe, telling him that if the people will but keep G"d's covenant, then they will be G"d's am s'gulah - treasured people. G"d tells Moshe that we will be a "kingdom of priests and a holy nation - mam'lekhet kohanim v'goi kadosh.
After Moshe relates G"d's words, the people respond that they will do what G"d has spoken.
After a little mood setting (three days worth) G"d speak to the people from Sinai, uttering the famous 10 things, the Decalogue. You know-the 10 commandments. With all the appropriate theatrics.
I'm not at all sure how I might have reacted standing at Sinai for the declaration of the Decalogue. I imagine that by the point we have reached at the end of our parasha, Yitro, I might have been a bit shell-shocked, speechless and experiencing true awe.
Even so, G"d continues without any re-assurances or comforting words, to caution us to not build any metal gods, and instructing us to build an altar. And then G"d says:
"B'kol makom asher azkor et shmi, avo eilekha uv'rakhtikha." "in every place where I cause My name to be mentioned I will come to you and bless you."
For a time in our ancient history, there were many such places. And then the priests decided there should only be one place. Then, through our own failures to uphold the covenant, that place was destroyed - twice! And now we are scattered all around the world.
There are those who would desire to restore that one place. Seems to me that they're missing the message, and simply desiring to bring back the fabled but failed days of yore. Oh, for one brief shining moment, we had a bit of Camelot in Jerusalem, but it was, alas, short-lived. If we spend our lives merely wishing to bring back that moment, we ignore all that is happening around us.
G"d did not say "in THE place." G"d clearly said "in EVERY place."
The inheritors of the rabbinic tradition of the diaspora may not all desire the rebuilding of the Temple, but they sure seem hell-bent on keeping the synagogue at the center of Jewish life and worship. I do not doubt the power of community, and the power of worship in community. Community is an essential component of Judaism.Yet we must not allow ourselves to be caught up in the hubris our ancestors also had, believing that only in those places we designate can we commune with G'd properly.
At home. At work. On the street. On vacation. Everywhere. B'kol HaMakom. In every place we are, we will be blessed, if we will but harken to G"d's commandments as we understand them.
G"d is often named "HaMakom." The place. effectively then, all places. In whatever makom/place we are in, G"d is that place. Depending on your understanding of G"d, that could be that G"d is physically omnipresent, or it could mean that, because we are in the image of G"d, everywhere we go, G"d goes. Either way, it's in every place. Not just one place, or some special places. For those of you who need a little "fear," you can just look at is as if G"d is there, seeing what you are doing, everywhere, at all times.
Whichever understanding you have, perhaps constant awareness of this might affect how we act and behave - in every place. Not just when we are in any one place. I think G"ds message to us here includes the idea that we need to act holy wherever we are. May we all strive to do so.
©2008 by Adrian A. Durlester
Some other musings on this parasha:
Vayigash 5767-Two Sticks
Vayigash 5765-One People
Vayigash 5763-Things Better Left Unsaid
Vayigash 5761/5766-Checking In
Vayigash 5762-Teleology 101: Does Gd Play Dice With the World?
Vayigash 5764-Incidental Outcomes and Alternate Histories
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