Rabbi Miriam's Blog
By Rabbinic Intern Gregory D. Metzger
I love time-lapse photography! It is the filming technique that gives us a glimpse into a world we otherwise would not see. With time-lapse, we get to see skyscrapers erected in minutes. We see plants go from seed to flower in seconds. We see the 405 actually move! Watching these films gets me wondering: can we see God, if we just slow the world down enough?
Moses was very attentive; he slowed the world down enough to notice that the burning bush was not being consumed. He saw miracles. He saw signs and wonders. But he wanted to see God face-to-face. Moses said: “If I have truly gained your favor, pray let me know Your ways that I may know you. . .Oh, let me behold Your Presence!” Exodus 33:15-18
God responds: “I shall cause to pass all my goodness before your face, and I shall call out the name ׳הוה before you. I shall show favor to whomever I choose, and I shall show mercy to whomever I choose. And . . . you will not be able to see My face for no man can [see It] and live. And he said, there is a place near Me on the rock. When My glory passes, I shall place you in a cleft in the rock; I shall shield you with My hand over you until I have passed. Then, I shall remove My hand and you will see My back, but My face may not be seen.” Exodos 33:19-23
There is a teaching of the Chatam Sofer, Moses Schreiber, a leading Orthodox rabbi of the 19th century. He taught that a period of time may only be understood once we are able to view the entire context of events and happenings.
When I take the time to look back at moments in my life, it is not hard for me to see that self-will alone did not bring me to the place (ha-Makom) where I stand today. A larger Force is at work in my life. As much as I seek to see this Force working “in the moment”, I, like Moses, must struggle to content myself with knowing that the “Ever Present” is truly ever present even though it can only be truly apprehended in retrospect.
As a person active in the Holy task of advocating for justice, human rights and the relief of suffering, the task for me, is to act as if I have True Faith that God is with me in this moment. Faith is therefore the ACTION not the belief. In G-d in Search of Man, Abraham Joshua Heschel writes, “The deed is the test, the trial and the risk. What we perform may seem slight, but the aftermath is immense. ”
This is how I understand our Rabbi, when she encourages us to plant trees whose fruits we may never see. Faith and God are present with the seed and the planting. There is “much greater” at work in the present than can be seen in the moment. This is so true in this great work of living a life of blessings. We can see this "Much Greater” in the lives of those we serve and in the souls of those who walk and work alongside us.
What is the deed you will perform this week? What is the risk that you will take this week, not knowing what fruit it will bear, where and to whom it will be made manifest? You have been given the seed, is up to you to plant it and encourage others to join as you nurture it.
Whether or not we will be fortunate enough to be able to look back as if with time-lapse photography and see the true beauty and power of our deed, we can all rejoice in the recognition of the great blessing that we have been invited to become a part of something awesome!
Ahavat Torah of West Los Angeles
About Rabbi Miriam
Rabbi Miriam E. Hamrell MHL, M.Ed., has served as our religious and spiritual leader at Ahavat Torah Congregation and helped it grow since it was founded in 2003.