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"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, con
cerning the word of life -- the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it ...." I John 1:1-2 (RSV)

"After his resurrection the disciples saw the living Christ, whom they knew to have died, with the eyes of faith (oculata fide)." Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, III, 55, 2 ad 1, as quoted in D. M. Stanley, Jesus in Gethsemane (New York, Paulist Press 1980).

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Moses and the Stone Tablets - Inspiration from Below

Exodus 34:1 states:  "Carve out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke."    Rabbi Jonathan Sacks finds great meaning here:

Hence the paradox: the first tablets, made by God, did not remain intact. The second tablets, the joint work of God and Moses, did. Surely the opposite should have been true: the greater the holiness, the more eternal. Why was the more holy object broken while the less holy stayed whole? This is not, as it might seem, a question specific to the tablets. It is, in fact, a powerful example of a fundamental principle in Jewish spirituality. The Jewish mystics distinguished between two types of divine-human encounter. They called them itaruta de’l’eylah and itaruta de’letata, respectively “an awakening from above” and “an awakening from below.” The first is initiated by God, the second by mankind. An “awakening from above” is spectacular, supernatural, an event that bursts through the chains of causality that at other times bind the natural world. An “awakening from below” has no such grandeur.  It is a gesture that is human, all too human.

Yet there is another difference between them, in the opposite direction. An “awakening from above” may change nature, but it does not, in and of itself, change human nature. In it, no human effort has been expended. Those to whom it happens are passive. While it lasts, it is overwhelming; but only while it lasts. Thereafter, people revert to what they were. An “awakening from below,” by contrast, leaves a permanent mark. Because human beings have taken the initiative, something in them changes. Their horizons of possibility have been expanded. They now know they are capable of great things, and because they did so once, they are aware that they can do so again. An awakening from above temporarily transforms the external world; an awakening from below permanently transforms our internal world. The first changes the universe; the second changes us.

Jonathan Sacks,  Covenant and Conversation   Exodus: The Book of Redemption,  271-272 (footnotes omitted)  (Maggid Books 2010).