Saturday, April 7, 2012

Shabbat Pesach: Greeting the unkown

 Shabbat Pesach
Joshua 5:13-15
One day, when Y'hoshua was there by Yericho, he raised his eyes and looked; and in front of him stood a man with his drawn sword in his hand. Y'hoshua went over to him and asked him, "Are you on our side or on the side of our enemies?"  "No," he replied, "but I am the commander of ADONAI's army; I have come just now." Y'hoshua fell down with his face to the ground and worshipped him, then asked, "What does my lord have to say to his servant?" The commander of ADONAI's army answered Y'hoshua, "Take your sandals off your feet, because the place where you are standing is holy." And Y'hoshua did so..”

Joshua sees an unfamiliar man with a drawn sword and goes right up to him. Was that brave? Was that crazy? It led to Joshua recognizing that the man was an angel and that he, Joshua, stood on holy ground. What can we learn from Joshua about how to encounter the powerful unknowns in our own lives? Focusing just on the verbs, this is what Joshua does to move from a potentially terrifying encounter with an enemy to a profound encounter with holiness:

    • he raises his eyes,
    • he looks,
    • he goes closer,
    • he asks,
    • he falls on the ground,
    • he worships,
    • he asks again,
    • he takes off his sandals.
In our own lives, the unknowns we must confront show up in many forms – perhaps deep disappointment, or a terrible and frightening diagnosis, or unexpected rejection. Instead of running from these experiences or fighting to get rid of them, we might try to follow Joshua’s example, looking closely at the experience, asking the experience whether it is our friend or enemy, and listening as it reveals something unexpected.

As we prepare to experience again the flight from slavery to freedom, may we have the courage to face directly and to inquire deeply into whatever life puts before us.

Thank you to Rabbi Alan Lew z'l for teaching us this technique of looking to the verbs in the passage for insight into what the Torah is instructing. Here's a talk by Rabbi Lew where he used this technique to find a powerful instruction in the passage about crossing the Red Sea:

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