I took eight Confirmation students on a Shabbat kayak trip today with the help of my friend, Rabbi Michael Birnholz, and the folks at Tropical Kayak Tours. While we had more rain and a bit cooler weather than we wanted, it was glorious to be paddling on the Indian River Lagoon on the first day of December. (I'm still a northerner who finds it remarkable that anything can be done outdoors in December that does not involve a wool hat and insulated gloves.)
I taught one of my favorite texts, a teaching from Rabbi Menachem Mendl of Kotzk, the slightly mad and reclusive sage who is known as the Kotzker Rebbe. This teaching is an interpretation of a verse from the book of Exodus:
“Adonai said to Moses, ‘Go up to Me on the mountain and be there. I will give you the tablets of stone, the Torah and commandments that I have written for you to teach” (Exodus 24:12).
There appears to be a difficulty with what God says. If Moses goes up to the top of the mountain, of course he is there! Why then the emphasis on “Be there”? This is proof that even after one strains to climb all the way up to a peak, it is still possible not to be there. You may indeed stand upon the mountain, yet your head is in a different place. The main point is not the ascent, but actually to be there, and only there, and not be above or below at the same time.
It is with great pride that I say that we did not just go on a kayaking trip. We were there.
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Lifting Our Hands
God of the Natural or the Supernatural?