From the Pen of Executive Director Alison C. Brown
We read in Midrash Tanchuma Yitro, “However, Yitro heard and was rewarded. He had been a priest of idolatry, yet he came and attached himself to Moshe, and entered beneath the wings of the Divine Presence.”
The cozy, safe, loving image of v’nichnas tachat canfei HaShechina, entering beneath the wings of the Shechina, invites me to eschew the earthy pleasures and distractions that, by all indications, I so worship. Netflix for example. My life was crazy, as most everyone’s was, from this past November until the first week of January. Afterwards, I settled in. My house was warm. I had a list of television series touted by my friends. I escaped into Netflix as often as I could. I forgot those pesky New Year’s resolutions, forgot the books I was so excited to read, and forgot that when the house was quiet I could meditate myself v’nichnas tachat canfei HaShechina.
Netflix certainly offers opportunities for growth. I’ve learned addiction to prescription drugs can ruin your life. I’ve learned that English midwives are dedicated, adorable game changers. I’ve learned that a pretty Italian seamstress can make a clever spy. And now, I am SO rested.
I am ready to ascend the mountain again. I have texts to study and people to befriend. I want to be aware and motivated by God, the Source of All who creates me anew every moment. I want to turn off the t.v. and walk past all the other so accessible idols that beckon me – including the lovely cellophane wrapped brownie cookies that caused me pause at the grocery store. In every moment I am face to face with God. Al panai, before me, interpreted in the Mekhita de Rabbi Ishmael as a reference to both time and place. We are always in God’s presence, we all stand at Sinai. And, on occasion we need refueling.
We need entertainment too. Movies, music, dancing, and yes t.v. But I also want to grow into some version of my best self. I am reading Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari. He explains that large scale human cooperation is based on myth. Change the myth, tell a different story and you can make large scale change. While I’m open to all stories, I most appreciate the Jewish story. I like having the opportunity to partner with a divine source who inspires me to think and do from Mochin de Gadlut – from a Greater Mind. The change I want to see, that I want to be, is a world where problems contain within themselves a myriad of solutions. Acting on them however, entails getting off the couch.
Zoning out with idols is easy. Rabbi Arthur Green says that living a meaningful life requires creativity and moral action. He learned this from our story. This is why Yitro said, Exodus 18:11, “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods.”