Column: Coming Together We Find God’s Presence
By Rabbi Mitch & Rev. Heather Wright
How do we succeed to be effective in our interpersonal relationships?
A fundamental rabbinic teaching is that if one person chooses to blame the other, then any planned endeavor is doomed for failure. But, if people support each other, and praise each other, then they will succeed.
The Torah records that “Moses and Aaron went into the Tent of the Meeting, and came out, and blessed the people, and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people.” (Lev. 9:23). According to the Chazal (Sages of Blessed Memory), there was a specific reason why Moses and Aaron went into the Tent together. Prior to the Tabernacle being used, Aaron had seen how his own offerings weren’t resulting in God’s glory appearing before the people.
Aaron came to believe that this must be because of him; that God was still angry with him because he had built the Golden Calf. Aaron, because of his own self-doubt, specifically asked Moses to go into the Tabernacle with him, and, together their prayers would prompt God’s Divine Presence to appear. However, Moses – like his brother Aaron – had also become concerned that God’s manifest presence hadn’t come for many days. He thought it might be because of his own failures as a leader of the Israelites.
Also, the Israelites had noticed the absence of God’s presence and they had come to Moses, telling him, it must be because of their sin; that they all had made the Golden Calf. Moses, comforting himself and the Israelites, said to them: “God’s presence will surely come, but only if Aaron goes into the tabernacle with me, and, together, our prayers will bring God’s sheltering presence. For my brother is more worthy than me.”
Sacred relationships begin and end with cultivating a holy demeanor in our thoughts, words, and deeds. Every individual possesses their own intrinsic value; we make God present when we succeed in treating others from the position of love and kindness.
What inspires me about Rabbi Mitch’s teaching is that everyone in the story felt convicted about their contribution to the problem. Rather than passing blame or finding a scapegoat, each examined their heart and found the imperfections which instead of isolating them in guilt or shame, drew them deeper in relationship to one another. That is vulnerability, to admit our weakness, sin, struggle and ask others to be in it with us. It takes courage. Personal honesty is a change agent improving relationships, communities and reconciling differences that seem unsurmountable. As we examine our own hearts before God, we realize that we are imperfect and we need the love of a Perfect God to cleanse us, receive us and remake us. It is in our authentic moments with one another and our ability to move towards one another, that we can change.
The three characters in the story, Aaron, Moses and the Israelites, all confess and then are able to comfort one another. As they see the other as even more worthy than themselves they impart strength and dignity to one another. That power of relationship invites God into the equation. God’s power is made manifest. In the Christian tradition, we have a Scripture that says, “where two or more are gathered, there he is with them also.” We can experience God individually, but when we gather collectively, in our small groups or houses of worship, God’s presence is powerful and palpable. With honesty and hearts open to receive love, we are healed and made new.