The darkness of winter, complete with blistery winds and negative temperatures that correspond with this secular New Year (at least in the northern hemisphere) seems to give rise to thoughts of our own mortality. A year fades away; a new one is born. A part of us dies, and a part of us becomes born anew. We are ushered into becoming our “new selves” as speedily as we might ski or sled down a hill or snowbank. As we move quicker towards the bottom, we become laden with slogans of self-renewal: “Lose weight! Get healthy! Exercise! Spend more time with family! Declutter your digital clutter!” -we are on a re-creation roller-coaster.
Let’s put that roller-coaster on pause and reflect for a moment. What ending are we coming from? What new beginning are we heading toward? Last weekend we completed the story of Genesis; a book fraught with the creation of our planet, humankind and the family dysfunction that comes along with our existence. The opening verses of Genesis point to God’s creation of earth and everything in it arising from tohu va’vohu: sweeping chaos. Out of this chaotic history we end with a story of forgiveness, as Joseph forgives his brothers, and promises to sustain them in Egypt. Humankind lives to see another chapter of existence.
In Shemot we begin anew. If Genesis reveals the story of our creation as a family- the children of Israel, Exodus uncovers the story of our creation as am kedosha, a holy people. The first chapters of Exodus weave a tale of bravery, courage and leadership against a fearful and foreign leadership. Our new story sheds light on the connections we build with one another as we become a holy people.
“Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh” is God’s answer to Moses as he stares into the burning bush, wondering at the voice emanating from the fire, unsure of what to say when the Israelites ask God’s name. God’s answer to Moses is, “I will be.” This name speaks to the everlasting nature yet changing concepts about God and God’s presence in the world.
This Friday we celebrate the first Shabbat of 2018. I invite you to consider who “YOU will be” in this year 2018. Join me Friday evening and Saturday morning in song and prayer as we contemplate some of the many Shemot, names and ideas of God, and how they manifest within ourselves and the world around us.