Nice to Meet You, Eternal One

Chol HaMo-eid Pesach, Holidays Exodus 33:12-34:26

D'Var Torah By: Rabbi Daniel Mikelberg

The Union for Reform Judaism's President Rabbi Rick Jacobs, who some might call our very own "Moses," is known for inspiring us to create "communities of belonging" as we connect with one another in our congregations, communities, and beyond. We do the best we can to remove any obstacles to building relationships. There are various means to become authentic friends, and Rabbi Jacobs exhorts us to use all the tools at our disposal as we build relationships founded on trust, care, and authenticity.

Typically, we imagine relationship building as something that happens between two people. However, relationships are diverse, and these principles can be applied to other situations as well. One such situation is the relationship between God and humanity. Our Passover Torah reading allows us to witness Moses yearning to build a relationship with God. Moses pleads, "Now, if I have truly gained Your favor, pray let me know Your ways, that I may know You and continue in Your favor. Consider too, that this nation is Your people" (Exodus 33:13).

Moses is frustrated, and we can understand why. He is asked, or perhaps volun-told, to serve as God's representative to the Israelites, but Moses feels that he does not fully know God. The Eternal is open to Moses's pleas. We read: "I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim before you the name Adonai, and the grace that I grant and the compassion that I show. But," God continues, "you cannot see My face, for a human being may not see Me and live" (Exodus 33:19-20).

We can relate to God's dilemma. God appreciates the need to open up to Moses, revealing Godself in unprecedented ways. Yet God continues to be guarded, underscoring the fact that, in any relationship, we should offer ourselves with caution. This experience between Moses and God is enriching; Moses learns that he can rely on God as "compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin" (Exodus 34:6-7). While Moses remains unable to see God's face, he is able to grow in his understanding of the Divine Being.

Over Passover, we have the unique opportunity to connect, re-connect, and move beyond our comfort zone with relatives we seldom see, the new friend we invite to our Seder, or those who are subject to systemic oppression (representing a modern-day enslavement). How will we respond? Moses can be our teacher. By building "communities of belonging," we can build relationships with one another, taking great care and connecting with the stories we all carry. As with all new beginnings, there will be more to learn, but that's okay. We can use these conversations as stepping stones for the future. The relationship between Moses and God is not easy; sometimes they take two steps forward and one step back. That's okay too - these moments of tension can be learning experiences as we build a better tomorrow.

In my family, we often say that "the Seder table is never full." There is always room for a new guest, perhaps a neighbor, a colleague, or a fellow Jew looking to reconnect with their heritage. This Passover, let's fill it not only with food, family, and friends but also with soulful conversations. May we open ourselves up to new possibilities as we build relationships with patience, love, and concern.

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