Mishpatim–Coming to our Senses

Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the  elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there was something like a pavement of lapis lazuli, clear as the sky itself.  God did not lay a hand on the leaders of the people of Israel. They gazed on God; they ate and drank.   Exod. 24:9-11

Among the various traditions that were woven into the Torah’s Sinai narrative, there seems to have been one where the encounter with God was described exclusively in sensory terms.  Tigay calls it “a visual encounter, experienced in different degrees by the people, the leaders, and Moses.”

Even in this visual encounter, the text is reticent in describing God, focusing on what was “under his feet,” implying that even here they did not see God directly but from below, through the clear blue pavement.  The encounter was close enough to be dangerous, but at the same time the text emphasizes that the leaders were completely safe.   Their concord with God is expressed by eating a meal in the Presence, under the eye of the Holy One.

Imagine a Sinai encounter apart from the giving of the law.  Let the sensory elements of that extraordinary encounter sharpen the sensory elements of the moment right now, as you the feel of your weight on your chair, the smell and the taste of your bowl of soup, the patterned detail of threads in your shirt.  Gaze on God.

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