וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְּתוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְהָיִיתִי לָהֶם לֵֽאלֹהִֽים: וְיָֽדְעוּ כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֵיהֶם אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִי אֹתָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם לְשָׁכְנִי בְתוֹכָם אֲנִי יְהוָֹה אֱלֹֽהֵיהֶֽם
“I will dwell among the Israelites, and I will be a G”d for them. They will realize that I, G”d their L”rd, brought them out of Egypt to make My presence felt among them. I am G”d their L”rd.” (Ex 29:45-46)
What a great deal. We get a live-in G”d. That’s probably well worth the price of this b’rit we’re entering into with G”d. Or so it would have seemed. Yet we’ve not done so well with our end of the b’rit (and some might question whether G”d has upheld G”d’s end of the deal all that completely either–true, perhaps–but, as I’m fond of pointing out, “mir zeynen do”-we’re still here.)
It’s a pretty amazing privilege to have the G”d of all creation dwell amongst us. And how have we treated this live-in? Images of Zero Mostel, Phil Silvers, Jack Gilford and Buster Keaton singing “Everybody Ought to Have a Maid” flow into my mind. (As Tom Lehrer used to say, the rest of you can look that up when you get home.) I fear at times that the answer to how we have treated our live-in G”d has been “as a servant” or a “maid” or a “plaything” when perhaps the answer should be “as an honored guest.” We treat G”d as a great djinn–we rub the lamp and insist on our three wishes. And if we don’t get them, we boot the djinn out of the house.
There are those among who believe that this live-in is a “stranger among us” and therefore to be feared. Yet, even if G”d is a stranger to us, should we not treat G”d with the hospitality due to any visitor, stranger, enemy, or friend, as exemplified by Avraham? G”d may be unknowable, but that doesn’t mean G”d can’t be treated as a proper guest–albeit it would be a bit harder to try and please an unknowable guest. Still, we are called upon to be hospitable. And so we should be.
Like any live-in, be it relative, friend, significant other, domestic help, nanny, there are certainly going to be times when we get on each others nerves. And when one of the people living in the house is the Creator of the Universe, there’s bound to be tension, problems, and issues.
Sometimes, a little “private” or “alone” time helps. Giving people “their space.” Yet how can one find either time or place to be apart from G”d? Would one want to? Should one? Is it truly possible? Can G”d ever be truly alone?
As I’ve often said, being b’tzelem Elokim (in the image of G”d) works both ways. Characteristics that we have are just as likely to be characteristics that G”d has. So, like us, maybe G”d can have annoying habits, do troublesome things. But like the roommate you got stuck with in college, your spouse or partner, some co-worker at the office, some friend or family that has overstayed their welcome, you have to find a way to work it out. I’ll give you a hint I’ve found from my own experience.
It is true that sometimes that a little distance, a little separation, can help strengthen a relationship. Sometimes, however, the secret is not separation or time apart…sometimes clinging even harder to each other works out better. When you get “apart” time, you can forget and “get over” those petty annoyances. But do they ever really go away, or do they just lie dormant, awaiting some other issue to bring them rising to the surface in resentment, anger, jealousy? Yes, maybe sometimes some apart time allows both parties to get rid of some of the baggage. Sometimes, however, I think it might just give them time to stuff the baggage deeper into the closet. Avoidance or confrontation – must it be all one or the other?
When you cling even harder, those pesky annoyances are there all the time, staring you in the face-you can’t get over them. You face them. You work through them. You get beyond them. That’s a whole other way of looking at dveykut, the idea of clinging to G”d.
We have sometimes pushed G”d away–and at times, it seems G”d has pushed us away. We give each other the silent treatment. We ignore. But when do we get to the hug or kiss and make-up stage?
Honored as we are to have G”d dwell amidst us, let us make G”d a welcome presence. As with any relationship, it will have its ups and downs, its times for togetherness and its time the separateness. The trick is knowing when each is appropriate.
When we want to push G”d away, maybe clinging on tighter might bring better results than time apart. We won’t know until we try. There’s rarely ever just one way to solve a problem. Sometimes, the solution to getting on each other’s nerves could be separation, sometimes it might be holding tighter and pushing on through. We can’t assume one method is always better than the other. So we simply have to take a chance and see what happens. All relationships require risk and trust. Yes, some of us have been so hurt that it is hard to ever trust again. I dare suggest it may be no different whether we were hurt by another human or hurt by G”d. If we ever want to fix a relationship, or even be in another one, we have to try a little trust and take a little risk. I think it’s unavoidable. With human beings, and with G”d.
I’ve stuck it out sometimres, and at other times I’ve tried the geographical cure. I cannot say for certain whether either method is more efficacious than the other. Surprise, surprise. Yet another thing in this universe that is about balance. (And, I might add, I am referring to both my relationships with other human beings, and my relationship with G”d. No, make that relationships with G”d. I’m not afraid to say that.)
I don’t know about you, but I think I’m ready for another round of kiss and make up with G”d. We get the chance to do that every week on Shabbat. Let’s take advantage of it. Sure, we’ll probably get into more arguments and fights, but isn’t it nice to know that a time for kissing and making up is built into the system? (Alright, you don’t always have to kiss your roommate, but, when you fight with them, you should at least make up with them.)
Go on now…invite G”d back to be your houseguest. Then go and give G”d, your houseguest, your friend and neighbor, a great big hug and a smile. You might get one back, and won’t that feel good?
When G”d gets on your nerves, or does something to upset you, as will invariably happen, look carefully at your options for dealing with it. Don’t assume that separation or clinging tighter is THE solution. Choose the one that seems appropriate.
This particular Shabbat, I’m choosing to cling and tough it out. What about you?
© 2016 (portions ©2003) by Adrian A. Durlester
Other Musings On This Parasha
Tetzaveh 5775 – Aharon’s Bells (Revised)
Tetzaveh 5774 – It’s Not Urim or Thummim
Tetzaveh/Shabbat Zachor/Purim 5773 – Fighting Dirty
Tetzaveh 5772-Perfection Imperfect
Tetzaveh 5770 – A Nation of Priests? (And a Shtickel of Purim)
Tetzaveh 5768-Light and Perfection
Tetzaveh/Purim 5767-The Urim & Thummim Show (Updated)
Tetzaveh 5766-Silent Yet Present
Tetzaveh 5765 and 5761-Aharon’s Bells
Tetzaveh 5764-Shut Up and Listen!
Tetzaveh 5763-House Guest
Tetzaveh 5762 (Redux 5760)-The Urim and Thummim Show
Tetzaveh 5758-Something Doesn’t Smell Quite Right