Don't let go of God. But not in the way you likely think I intend the directive.
This week Jews throughout the world will retell the incident (read: sin) of the golden calf. Not long after a God-manufactured and miraculous escape from slavery, the theophany at Sinai and the reception of the 10 commandments (of which the golden calf sin violates at least one, probably two), the Israelites fully cross the line in their relationship with God. But it's what is concurrently happening between God and Moses -- the great negotiation for resolution -- that captures my attention. God prefers a bloody end, Moses a peaceful one.
God to Moses: "Let me alone, then, that my wrath may blaze up against them and destroy them. Then I will make of you a great nation." (Exodus 32:10)
The rabbinic tradition -- leaving no textual difficulty unexplored -- offers this response to the theological assertion that God's power is somehow contained by Moses, a human.
R. Abbahu said:
Were it not that a verse of Torah fully spelled it out, it would never have been possible to make such a [theological statement] statement suggesting God's dependence on a human. The verse teaches that Moses seized the Holy Blessed One, like a person who grabs his friend by the garment. He said to him, 'Lord of the world, I shall not let you go until you forgive and pardon them.' (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Berakhot, 32a)
It's a stunning message. No matter how small or insignificant you may perceive yourself to be, and no matter how often others may cause you to feel this way... you matter. You are essential. You can change the world. Don't let go until you do.
There are so many people in our world that deserve attention, building, love and compassion. (In fact, the world itself deserves similar attention.) So much so that we may feel utterly powerless and impotent. Or others plant weeds in our hearts, suggesting that our advocacy is too small, a meaningless drop in the bucket that can never transform that which surrounds us. The rabbis, right here, by creatively re-crafting the dialogue between God and Moses remind us how perilous that potential effacement can be.
Whatever or whoever it is you are currently advocating for -- don't forget to hold on tight until you see it through. You really do matter.
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