(The Adoration of the Golden Calf, Nicolas Poussin – symbol courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

We all know the tale.

Down within the undeniable is the Folks of Israel, and they’re changing into frightened. Moses has been up at the mountain somewhat an extended whilst – as it seems issues are somewhat extra difficult than simply ten to hand commandments. He has been long past an extraordinarily lengthy whilst, this Moses fellow, 40 days and 40 nights, that is a very long time to be and not using a chief while you and your oldsters, and theirs and theirs and theirs, have spent 400 and thirty years as topics to Pharaoh in Egypt.

So the folk say to Aaron, their putative priest, ‘Make us a God!’ That may be, provide us one thing to peer, one thing we will be able to aspect to and make sure of and likely. And Aaron – we all know the tale – takes their bangles and their jewelry and makes a golden calf.

And we all know the tale. Moses comes down from the mountain in the end, the drugs of the Regulation in his palms. And he sees the folk dancing round their recognized amount. And Moses smashes the pills of the Torah to smithereens amid the folk down within the undeniable. After which he runs again up the mountain, and he turns to God, and he says, ‘Sufficient of this uncertainty – display me Your glory!’

And God says, ‘You can not see Me and are living.’

And what’s so putting – however really easy to omit, while the tale (Exodus 32:1 – 34:17) is informed at complete, majestic duration – is that what Moses asks of God up at the mountain is strictly the similar factor that the folk call for from Aaron within the undeniable under: Display me God! Allow me understand my Lord precisely.

God being God, the solution Moses gets at the mountain is infinitely higher than the fabric reaction Aaron supplies for the folk within the undeniable beneath. God says to Moses, No, It’s not that i am going to develop into a few factor certain for you, like a statue chances are you’ll stroll round and realize to a tee. And while God says to Moses, “for guy shall now not see Me and are living,” (Exodus 33:20) most likely the that means is much less that a face-to-face come upon with the Divine may zap a individual and extra that if one have been sure, if one knew needless to say, what will be the feel of being alive?

Dwelling is looking out, striving, craving. Dwelling is now not figuring out. Dwelling is questing to understand that that is past, and past that, and past – and in that feel, “guy shall now not see me and are living” – a individual can not presume to seize the Final and on the similar time be in point of fact alive.

However what I’m going to do, says God to Moses, is I’m going to do that: I will be able to safe haven you right here, within the cleft of the rock, underneath the palm of My hand, and I will be able to cross via you, and you are going to recognize that you haven’t been right here on my own, and I will be able to be what I will be able to be to you – however, no, you will not see precisely what I’m.

I’m so thankful that, while I used to be a kid, and I requested the large questions, my oldsters had the braveness to inform me, at 3 and 4 and 5 years antique, that no one may just recognize. However right here have been tales, and searches, and concepts, and nice feelings – and I feel, in no small phase, that’s the reason my adventure nonetheless is a non secular adventure, and my craving nonetheless is non secular craving, and, in the end, why my soul nonetheless thirsts for the dwelling God. If I were given non secular pabulum, or had I been advised that the tales have been the best way issues if truth be told have been, I feel I might have come to only as convinced negations. I might have placed away infantile issues – and I don’t believe that may be being alive both.

I feel that may be additionally why I really like Talmudic custom, its consistent from side to side of proposition, and query, and counter-query, which, in its truest center of hearts, does now not in reality want finish-issues, even though it delights forever in in the hunt for them. There’s something stony and idolatrous approximately solutions settled upon, attempt to stamp them as we would possibly with divine imprimatur. We live creatures. We’re made to be dynamic thru and thru.

“While we’ve discovered all of the mysteries and misplaced all of the that means,” says the despairing show of Tom Stoppard’s Thomasina, in his level-play, Arcadia, “we will be able to be on my own on an empty shore.”

“Then,” solutions Thomasina, “we will be able to dance.”

As long as we’re alive, no discovery, then again penetrating or demystifying, will uninteresting our style for the ineffable, unknowable supply of our pleasure, and of our in search of, and our lifestyles.

This can be a position of data, this Harvard, this magisterially earthly School; and it’s every so often tempting for faith to compete on that enjoying box, even to say victories. I recommend, against this, that the position of the ones folks within the Spirituality inside the School isn’t to have all of the solutions, however to keep in mind that the questions – the very large questions.

And so I pray that we be now not so positive – that we now not content material ourselves with the idols which are concepts set in stone. I pray that we’ve got the braveness to shatter walk in the park, and to acknowledge that fact is scattered like refracted gentle amongst us all, mirrored via each and every folks enormously and another way, and incomplete within the scope of any one among us – and that we satisfaction, subsequently, in finding one any other, and in looking out ever onward with one any other.

There may just rarely be a greater position than a perfect School by which to proceed that very important tale.

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