The verse which leapt out at me this year when I sat down to study this week’s parsha is this one (Leviticus 9:6):
ויאמר משה זה הדבר אשר צוה הויה תעשו וירא אליכם כבוד הויה
The JPS translation renders that verse as follows:
Moses said: “This is what the Lord has commanded that you do, that the Presence of the Lord may appear to you.”
And then the text goes on to share the details of ancient sacrificial practices designed for that purpose. What struck me this year was that final clause, the one that speaks about us seeing the Presence of the Divine.
Here’s another way of rendering those same Hebrew words:
And Moses said: “This is the thing that Havayah (the One Who Accompanies) offers as a connective-commandment, in order that y’all may be attuned to the Glorious Presence of the Divine.”
We may imagine that seeing God’s Presence was something which was only available to our ancestors in Biblical times. Torah tells us that as they wandered in the wilderness they saw a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, but we don’t get that kind of assurance. We don’t get that kind of connection.
Except that we do. Or we can. That’s what the mitzvot are for. The mitzvot are like tuning forks. The musicians among us know that when you strike a tuning fork it resonates at a particular frequency. The mitzvot help us attune ourselves to the presence of God, to the presence of something beyond ourselves.
The purpose of lighting Shabbat candles isn’t just to kindle a couple of pretty lights on a Friday night — it’s to arouse our ability to be conscious of God’s light in the world.
The purpose of making havdalah isn’t just to give us a nice bookend for the end of Shabbat — it’s to tune our inner instrument so that as we enter into the new week we resonate at God’s frequency.
The purpose of blessing our food before we eat isn’t just to remind us to be grateful — it’s to awaken our awareness of the sparks of divinity even in the thiings we consume.
The purpose of feeding the hungry isn’t just to relieve their suffering — it’s to recognize that God’s Presence is present in those who hunger.
The purpose of studying Torah isn’t just to learn about our tradition — it’s to tune our inner radios to the divine broadcast which is still ongoing.
God’s Presence is all around us. Every moment can be infused with awareness of divinity. That’s the lesson of hashpa’ah, spiritual direction, which asks: where is God in what is unfolding in your life right now?
Spiritual direction is a tool for becoming attuned to God’s presence.* Prayer is a tool for becoming attuned to God’s presence, and it’s one which is available to us here every week in community — and is available to each of us on our own every day.
And every mitzvah is a tool for becoming attuned to God’s presence, a tuning fork which rings out a sweet, clear note. When our hearts resonate with that note, when our hearts are attuned to God, then we can find the Divine Presence in everything we do.
This is the d’var Torah I offered at my shul during our contemplative Shabbat morning service yesterday.
*and it’s one which I’m blessed to be able to offer to our community because of the three years I spent in ALEPH’s hashpa’ah program.