Studying Torah in the modern age can be a tricky endeavor sometimes. Engaging with ideas from 3,000 years ago will inevitably lead to a culture clash between our modern sensibilities and those from the Iron Age of the Ancient Near East.
With stories that touch on the necessity for war, strict hierarchies, and with enough gender insensitivities to fill an entire semester long course for ‘smashing the patriarchy’ it can be very challenging to hang in with the process of talmud torah.
I know that I have had the experience of reading a section of torah or a page of talmud and have been shocked by the message that was being elevated.
Exodus 35 has such messages — anyone working on shabbat shall be executed. The temptation to skip over this section of holy text arises. Yet as the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai alludes to in his “From the Book of Esther I Filtered the Sediment” if we remove the challenging texts then we also lose the opportunity to wrestle. And if we stopped reading altogether then we also lose out on the messages that inspire.
In Exodus 35, Moses passes along God’s message that those with nadiv lev, generous hearts, should bring forth donations of gold. What kind of a person would dare to bring forward golden jewelry when just a few chapters earlier they were all scolded and punished for bringing their shiny gifts forward?
A brave and generous person.
The Torah asks this same question of me: will you bring your gift of presence and engagement with me forward even though you have been wounded be my words before?
So, I ask myself: can I, too, be vulnerable and courageous? Can I give a generous read; engage with a nadiv lev?
The reflection on this chapter is part of the broader 929 project where you read a chapter-a-day (weekends excluded – so only 5 chapters per week) of the Tanakh/Hebrew Bible.
We are working our way towards February 2, 2022.
Where do you hope to be in your spiritual journey by then?