Friday, January 6, 2017

Truly Divine

On the day after New Year's Day, I officiated my first wedding ceremony of the year for Andy and Larry, at their home in Frisco, Texas. It was just me and them! Here the remarks I shared with them:

What an absolutely fabulous life story you have had! From your oral telling of it, and even more your written stories, one senses and can almost touch the rich fabric of the life you built together over 35 years. Thinking about your relationship, I was reminded of a fascinating rabbinic interpretation. The Bible tells us of an artifact shrouded in mystery, the Ark of the Covenant, well known to your generation, because of fellow Jew, Steven Spielberg.

Now, with all the special effects, Indiana Jones never really discusses what is inside the Ark, but the ancient rabbis do. They note that amongst the objects in there, the two most prominent were the tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were inscribed. But wait, did I say two, or perhaps four… Because they note that both sets of tablets, the ones Moses breaks, and the replacement set God gave him, were put inside the Ark. (As an aside here Moses teaches us, that like every smart Jew, you should always take out a warranty. You never know!)
Rembrandt’s Moses with the Ten Commandments
And it is this idea of the Ark containing both sets of tablets, that the rabbis really make a "meal out of". Their explanation for this is an interesting one, but forget their answer for a second, let's dwell on the question for a moment, as well as an alternative explanation. Inside the most holy container in the world, sit the most holy artifacts in the world. Fair enough, but why both the broken AND whole sets?

And then I remember my own father's teaching on a different passage. He has taught that the biblical concept of man being created in the Image of God was never properly understood, until now. It is only through archeology that we are able to understand that this concept is one the Bible contrasts with an ancient custom. You see, we have found a number of ancient temples, where the king erected a statue of himself in prayer. That way, whatever he was doing, “he” would still be in the temple, praying to his god.  

The Image of God idea flips this practice on its head. The Bible says that having an image of YOU in a temple is useless and meaningless. Instead the Biblical God creates little images of HIM to go out into the world and live life to their fullest potential. These little divine images, i.e. you and I, unlike statues of clay or stone, experience wonder, adventure, love, pleasure and joy. Invariably, they also experience disappointment, disillusionment, sadness, pain and even regret.

Here is where the tablets come in. The message of the tablets, like the message of your beautiful life together, Andy and Larry, is that renewal is possible. A new set of tablets is handed down, and with it renewed happiness, the finding of peace and the experience of comfort. And why are both placed in the Ark? It is to teach us that embracing renewal does not mean that we discard the wear, tear and breakage of the past. Living life to the fullest, like you have, is not just about the whole tablets; it's about the broken tablets too. Because the whole tablets and the broken tablets both rest in the Ark. The beauty of lives well lived and richly experienced is only built from the sum total of all our human experiences. It is THAT that makes a story like yours, Andy and Larry, not only beautiful, but truly divine.

No comments:

Post a Comment