Work – is a priestly act that perfects man as person

The Creator wants the perfection of His own work by our work. We transform His creation into a gift to Himself.

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write down these words, for in accordance with them I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.

“So Moses stayed there with the Lord for forty days and forty nights without eating any food or drinking any water, and he wrote on the tablets that words of the covenant, the ten commandments.”[1]

Comment “Rabbi Jonathan Sacks provides a brilliant example… in explaining the relationship between divine and human initiative at Sinai and the construction of the Tabernacle. God has revealed himself at Sinai… yet when Moses stays too long on the mountain, the people convince Aaron to make the golden calf. God has revealed himself in an abiding covenant, but at the first worry they revert to paganism: ‘Up, make us gods, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know  what has become of him’ ( Ex. 32,1). Moses, told by God of this apostasy,      rushes down the mountain in a fury. First, he destroys the tablets on  which God himself had written the commandments – ‘the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tables’ (Ex. 32, 16) – then smashes the golden calf, grinds it to powder, casts the powder into  wat er and makes the Israelites drink.

“Returning to the mountain to beg forgiveness for the people, Moses receives the instruction to make a second set of commandments, this time hewn by his own hand. On the face of it, this is a remarkable loss, the originals are gone, replace with a copy partially constructed by Moses; the content is identical but the direct hand of God is lessened. Yet, when Moses descends the mountain this time, his face is radiant: ‘What is intriguing, however, is the fact that Moses did not radiate when he brought down the first tablets, but on the second occasion he did.’ The first tablet does not survive, but the second set, ‘the result of a partnership between Moses and God’ does survive and ‘Moses himself was changed as the result of the participation.’ While he had been largely passive in receiving the first set, here, by God’s own invitation and command, he was active and Moses was changed. Oddly, and in a particular way the second set was better, or at least better for humanity, precisely because Moses labored, because of human work.”

“Sacks  notes a similar transition between passibity and activity in the people as well. IN preparation for Sinai, the people did nothing othere than to purify themselves and wait for oGod re reveal himself, evn kept away from the mountain; but after the golden calf, the work of sonstructing the tabernacle occupies them and they are busy making a place for God. Even the instructons for the tabernacle reveal the change. At Sinai, the people remain at the foot of the mountain, corresponding to the tabernale’s outer court; the priests and elders proceed up the mountain slope while Moses alone goes to the summit, just as the Holy Pace welcomes the priests… According to Sacks, the ‘implication is radical and unmistakable: Creating the universe, God made a home for human beings. Making the sanctuary, human beings made a home for God.” [2]

“(…) Without human agency, God does not take up residence among us, either in Bethlehem or at the altar: ‘God does not come to us through a creation of nature alone, holy trees, water or fire. God comes to us through the first creation of culture –bread and wine – God fills  his  temple with his presence, and he fills his Cosmic Temple with the works of our hands, choosing even to adorn his eternal city with us and  our  works.

[1] Exodus 34, 26-28.

[2] R.J. Snell, “Acedia And Its Discontents – Metaphysical Boredom in an Empire of Desire” Angelico Press (2015)  53-55.

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