Monday, December 30, 2013

And we stayed all the way to closing time

December 29/30 2013

Then Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Can I do what only God can do? You meant to hurt me, but God turned your evil into good to save the lives of many people, which is being done. Genesis 50:19-20

It certainly isn't much fun to read about the Patriarchs. It is difficult to imagine a more reactionary, selfish, dishonest, petty, fickle bunch of people if you tried. Especially as compared to the folks around them, who seemed to have a better grasp of good and evil and common decency. But that is probably only because the protective layer of politely averted eyes was peeled back, and we could see what lies in each of us, a wicked and deceitful heart. Who can know it?

And at one level, big whoop, God used the brothers' evil for good to save the lives of many people from the seven years of drought that He planned, and all the people ended up losing everything they owned and selling themselves as slaves in order to get a little bit of grain back from what was collected from them by Joseph during the years of plenty. And the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer, and the beat goes on.

Not exactly how the story was explained to me with flannel graphs in Sunday School.

But as I wander the streets of New York once again, I am reminded of a quiet yet glorious beauty of humanity. A goodness that permeates, that is somehow all tangled up with the rotten selfish lies, and yet is revealed in the tiny mosaics that line the subway tunnel and the ever-so-bristly mustache of the security guy, and the sweet glimpses of life through half parted curtains as I walk along cracked Brooklyn sidewalks under a black black sky with only the most piercing stars still shining through.

And yesterday at the Met I breezed through three or four thousand years of mankind...past a noseless Sphinx and so many Greek and Roman marbles and Italian Renaissance oils and the worldwide textile trade route tapestries painstakingly stitched by now invisible fingers and modernist Balthus Cats and Girls and the Nelson A. Rockefellow pursuit of the best in the arts from Papua New Guinea and of course video shots of trash blowing down a New York sidewalk on a windy day.

And like Joseph, who am I to judge? Elohim is the only One who can judge. The Torah teaches that “The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to those, You want to know my name? I am called according to my actions. When I judge the creatures I am Elohim, and when I have mercy with My world, I am named YHVH” (Ex R. 3:6).

 The form of the word Elohim, with the ending -im, is plural and masculine, but the construction is usually singular, i.e. it governs a singular verb or adjective, and it is the first name for God, as In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth.

In the second creation story (Genesis 2:4) the second name of God is revealed as YHVH (from the semitic root that means “to be”) and YHVH “breathed into his (Adam’s) nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7).

And when Elohim appeared to Moses in the burning bush, it was YHVH who had mercy. Yahweh said, “I have seen the misery of my people, and I have heard them crying out because of the slave drivers. I know how much they’re suffering."

And one of the parents gave me Lecturas Diarias for Christmas, and today's verse is from Titus: Pero cuando se manifestó la bondad de Dios nuestro Salvador, y su amor hacia la humanidad, El nos salvó, no por obras de[a] justicia que nosotros hubiéramos hecho, sino conforme a su misericordia, por medio del lavamiento de la regeneración y la renovación por el Espíritu Santo

And I will choose to repeat the words of Joseph, the declaration "which is being done." And salvation is taking place even today, the regeneration and the restoration.

And I will rejoice and be glad in it, for this is the day that the LORD Elohim has made.