God's Presence in the Darkest Moments

God's appearance in a burning bush teaches us to be present with and provide comfort to all who suffer.

Continued from page 2

The Sefat Emet takes the metaphor of Jews as starsmuch further. He suggests that the purpose of a Jewis like the purpose of a star--to bring light intothe darkest places of the world. Just as each starhas its own name, each Jew has his own unique light tobring.

God calls us by name so that we light up theworld with the unique capacities and gifts with whichwe are endowed. If the bush suggests that God ispresent in the low places, the stars suggest that wemust be present in the dark places. Wherever there ishuman suffering and degradation, wherever a heart isbroken or a soul abandoned, there are we summoned byGod. This is the calling of the Jewish people--totestify and to demonstrate that love and kindness arepossible even amidst the thorns, even in the heart ofdarkness. Perhaps this is the deepest level of thecovenant between God and the Jewish people--we committo lighting up the darkness together.

If, with Moses, we return to the bush for a moment,we discover another radical truth about God that wemust seek to emulate. God is totally present in themidst of human suffering, and yet God is not consumedin the process. That divine truth is in turn a humanchallenge--to be present without being consumed, tobring love to the darkness without being destroyed inthe process of so doing. Sadly, it is all too easy toerr in one extreme or the other--to be so concernedwith self-preservation that we are never present, orto be so obsessed with the darkness that we areconsumed by it. The Torah does not offer any easysolutions for how to do it, but in the model of God atthe burning bush, the Torah suggests ever-so-subtlythat it is possible to be present without beingdestroyed.

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To take the covenant seriously, then, is to travelwith God to the low places, and to travel for God tothe dark places. Not to celebrate or glorify thedark, and not to romanticize it. But to be present toit and in it, and to do what stars do--to bringglimmers of light, and intimations of the divine, evenand especially to the most "Godforsaken" places onearth.

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