Monday, June 16, 2014

Such Great Heights


Parshat Korach
18 Sivan, 5774
June 16, 2014

A few weeks ago, my brother and I climbed 1488 vertical feet to the top of Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park.

I am afraid of heights.

The world looks different from a 1500 ft. promontory. You think differently, up there. An unrestricted view of the sublime changes your perspective.

There is a promise, in the book of Isaiah, regarding Shabbat. Keep the Shabbat, God says, and we will be set astride the heights of the earth (Isaiah 58:14). On the top of Angel’s Landing, I understand that God, in that verse, promised us perspective. To actually be on top of the heights of the earth is to see the world from a God’s eye view, and to have an intimation of what our existence looks like from afar. I don’t mean perspective simply in terms of sheer height, I mean the realization that this cliff which has stood for geological ages, is itself a blip in the history of existence. I mean understanding that all the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; to the place from where the rivers come, there they return again. I mean knowing how infinitesimally short the mere 10,000 years of human existence really is.

What is our significance in God’s eyes, and how do we seem from a God-like view? To say that we are insignificant is to forget that we are remarkable, and that we are the only sentient creation of which we are aware – something unique in the annals of the world.

But equally true is that humanity's time may be, relatively, quite brief, depending on how we play it and on circumstances beyond our control. Most of the time, I worry only about my own survival as I did on the climb up, peering down over either side, holding on for dear life. But perhaps I should spend time thinking about who we are - all of us - and how we as a species should choose to be known. If we saw ourselves with God's eyes, how would we change the way we live?

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