Celebrating the Spiritual Levels of Torah

Torah is a teaching that continues to unfold, guiding us to appreciate the text more fully
as our awareness evolves.

Torah Portion for the Shabbat in Sukkot
October 17 - 24, 2016

(Exodus 33:12 - 34:26)

The festival of in-gathering

We have focused on a return to our essential spiritual nature during the High Holy Days just concluded, casting off the burdens of old unfulfilled dreams, engaging in inner and outer acts of forgiveness, and stepping renewed into the New Year.

We are now ready for Sukkot, the festival of in-gathering, our major harvest festival each fall. Because it follows the Holy Days, Sukkot celebrates our individual and communal spiritual harvest as well. We have the opportunity to appreciate more fully what we have shared through the Ten Days of Teshuvah.

The special Torah reading for a Shabbat that falls within a holiday week reflects the essential nature of that holiday. The reading for Sukkot is taken from the parashah of Ki Tissa, and relates the drama in which Moses receives the second set of Tablets on Mount Sinai. It includes specific reference to the "Feast of In-gathering at the turn of the year," which is Sukkot (Ex. 34:22).

This is the second time Moses ascended Mount Sinai for 40 days, since he smashed the first set of tablets when confronting the Golden Calf incident, and he is ready for his own spiritual harvest. He seeks further confirmation of his role as leader and wants assurance that God will be there for the people in the future (Ex. 33:14). More than that, Moses yearns to see God's Presence more directly than ever before:

He said, "Please let me behold Your Presence!" (Ex. 33:18)

The response Moses hears is clear:

And He answered, "I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim in your presence the Name of the Eternal, and the grace that I grant and the compassion that I show. But, you cannot see My Face, for a person may not see My Face and live." (Ex. 33:19 - 20)

The very Nature of Being

The passage is rich with spiritual insight. Moses, like many of us, wishes to "know" the Divine in ways that are not possible while living in a separate body with a separate center of consciousness. Moses can see "the goodness" of God, he can feel the "grace" and the "compassion" of God. But he cannot "see" God as one might see any other separate being, for God is not a separate being. That which we call God is Being Itself, and as a part of that Being it is not possible to directly know the whole without giving up one's separateness.

The "Name of the Eternal" that Moses hears is not simply a "name," but a statement of the very Nature of Eternal Being:

The Eternal passed before him and proclaimed: "The Eternal! The Eternal! A God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin. . . (Ex. 34:6 - 7)

The spiritual harvest of this season

Those of us on a spiritual path seek to meet more clearly the One Being awakening through us. We yearn to know the Life of which we are a part, and we hope to celebrate that Presence with greater joy.

This special Sukkot Torah passage reminds us that the clearest way to celebrate our connection to the Life we share is to express energies of compassion and love in our world. We are called to celebrate the kindness we see and to act more kindly in our dealings with each other.

The true spiritual harvest of this season always reflects through acts of greater caring, and is witnessed by eyes filled with the wonder of Being.

Focus Phrases

Focus Phrases I am grateful for the renewal of Spirit within me.
I celebrate greater kindness now.
God's Presence is with me all ways.

Writing Prompts

From these High Holy Days I have gained. . .
On my spiritual path, I wish I could. . .
I feel the Presence of God most when. . .

Photo: Mark Reden