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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).

Friday, May 1, 2015

After Egypt - Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

In the Book of Exodus God calls his people to leave Egypt, and set out on a journey to a better place. It's a mysterious journey because the destination is mainly  "beyond the horizon" but not totally so. Because of the "Sabbath"  experience  along the journey the covenant people get a a glimpse of that destination every week.  Rabbi Sacks puts it this way:

There is thus every indication in Exodus that freedom will involve a long journey. It is fair to say, thirty-three centuries later, that we have still not arrived at the destination. But freedom is not a blind journey, a road without a map. The destination is clearly signalled, though it lies beyond the horizon. It is the promised land, flowing with milk and honey, the land Moses spent his life leading his people towards but was not privileged himself to enter. One of the underlying themes of the book was best stated in a later age by Rabbi Tarfon: “It is not for you to complete the task but neither are you free to desist from it.”

The path to freedom is travelled one step, one generation, one era at a time, never losing heart or forgetting our aim. The key to Exodus politics, as it is to Judaism as a whole, is what elsewhere I have called “Utopia now.” That is the significance of Shabbat, whose presence looms large in the book. It was the first commandment the Israelites received in the wilderness. It holds a pivotal place in the ten commandments. It is repeated immediately before and after the episode of the Golden Calf. It is central to the politics of freedom. On Shabbat we rehearse utopia, or what Judaism came later to call the messianic age. One day in seven, all hierarchies of power are suspended. There are no masters and slaves, employers and employees. Even domestic animals cannot be made to work. We are not allowed to exercise control over other forms of life, or even forces of nature. On Shabbat, within the covenantal society, all are equal and all are free. It is the supreme antithesis of Egypt. 

Jonathan Sacks,  Covenant and Conversation   Exodus: The Book of Redemption,  13-14 (Maggid Books 2010).