The meaning I picked, the one that changed my life: Overcome fear, behold wonder. — Richard Bach

Moses ascended the mountain twice to commune with the Holy One of Blessing and receive the Ten Utterances, Aseret haDibrot. These were 10 primary categories for desired human behavior that set the foundation for our 613 Commandments, Mitzvot.  These Divine meetings would influence civilization with some radical thinking, not the least of which was the innovation of a sanctuary in time: the gift of Shabbat. However, while blessings were being configured at great heights, other dynamics were at play on the ground. Since the people could not witness Moses’ direct interactions with God and he was away for what appeared to be a very long time, fear of the unknown collided with a pronounced lack of faith. Unable to remain patient and summon the courage necessary to hold the space for Moses’ return, the people deferred to old, familiar ways and a golden calf was created.

Once upon a time, after many years of adventures around the world, the Beloveds awakened to the presence of one another. Hand in hand, they began a new journey, expressing gratitude for the precious moments together. The sun shone in the day and the stars illuminated the night. They shared joy and laughter, poetry and music, peace and harmony. They imagined finishing each other’s sentences for the rest of their lives.

Suddenly, the dark of a moonless night appeared without the stars and the morning came without a sunrise. Conflicts engulfed one of the Beloveds, testing their strength and resilience. Breathing became impaired and they grew weary. Attacked from the North, South, East and West, they collapsed and fell upon their sword. It was easier to fall. All too often, the natural pull of gravity can ensure victory for opposing forces. Disappearing into their historical patterns, they convinced themselves that it was all for the best, even though they promised their Beloved that would never, ever happen. Then, the rains came unabated. Day and night were indistinguishable behind the clouds. And God cried, for God could not change what man had done. God knew that strength and discernment were enfolded within the holy gift of free will bestowed upon each person, even if they could not access them. Although the Beloveds had miraculously united after a lifetime of separation and trials, they could not venture forth together if one or the other became consumed by fear. Darkness descended and all was silent.

True love calls one to arise and shine in the act of refining of one’s self. Whether a person aspires to commune with their Beloved, or the Holy One of Blessing, equally great amounts of faith, patience and courage may be required. Golden calves remain among us as possibilities any time we drift from our higher call. The seduction of the familiar can keep us tethered to old habits that no longer serve the evolution of our character or our spirit. Some may think that growth and aspirational thinking exist in contrast to security and stability, but this is not so. Moses’ example of leadership demonstrated that a person can endure travels through new, challenging terrain, emerging whole and intact, while embracing transformative gifts. 

This Shabbat, may you receive whatever is necessary to embark on an adventure that nurtures the healthy development of your character and your spirit. If needed, may you have the faith, patience and courage to defy gravity and break through those low-lying clouds that obscure your potential. Then, may you arise into higher realms, where (as seasoned pilots know) all becomes clear, with unlimited visibility. JN


Rabbi Mindie Snyder is the spiritual leader of Congregation Lev Shalom in Flagstaff.

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