01 February 2013
At Most One
God is at most One.
And really, when you think about it, shouldn't that be enough? You get too many gods and all of a sudden there's unmanageable disagreement, idiocy, and then, god forbid, blood flowing in the streets.
"Happy is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the wicked, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of the scornful."
I like how King David ( a guy with a fair amount of DNA on his hands ) begins his one hundred and fifty psalms with human intuition as the seat of happiness. We know who's wicked; we know what sin is; we know where the scornful sit ( often taking up at least two subway seats. )
What we intuit, God knows. On a certain level, it makes the Ten Commandments almost redundant; or, at most, an affirmation, in writing, of the perceived inherent rightness and fairness of life found in words made manifest through Law.
Like puzzle pieces, assembled slowly, patiently, assiduously, to make a whole. An "almost One," usually with one or two jigsawed details missing. An al Qaeda be-heading; hands lopped off in Mali; an abortion clinic bombed; a rabbi who molests boys in Brooklyn.
God is at most One. He hides from us when we're at our shameful worst.
In my younger years, I'd think: Blood and Frogs in the Nile! A Red Sea parting! Thunder and lightning on a Sinai Mountain! Tablets carved in Stone! Show me the proof again, God! Save the oppressed of the world today! Show me the archaeological evidence of such child-like fantasies! In my younger years I'd think, "To get God's attention you have to shout."
King David must have been older when he wrote Psalm One. In youth, who has time to meditate day and night on the Law? And who has the luxury to even notice that the wise one "shall be like a tree planted by streams of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season."
Waters ever-flowing; branches yielding sweet vessels of seeds that fall, decay, and regenerate, over and over again. Leaves braced against wind; clouds, sun and rain passing over-head.
Nothing quite stays the same ever to get to One.
When Moses stands atop Mount Sinai and receives from God the Law, it is interesting to note that God doesn't announce that he's One--just that He is. אנכי יי אלהיך--I am the Eternal your God. But, as the Sages suggest, "He is" with intentionality--"I am" in order to free the Children of Israel from Egypt; "I am" in order to release you from the house of slavery; "I am" for the purpose of rooting the reality of human existence in meaning.
A midrash teaches that the Ten Commandments begin in silence. That the first letter of אנכי is silent. The silence of "I am." The silence discerned in the face the man about to lose his life by the hand of a zealously certain religious fanaticism in any corner of the globe where the distorted view of God is a bloated, hostile, arrogant power greater than One.
The tree bears fruit but the fruit falls to the earth. The seasons pass and seed becomes tree again, rooted in regenerated ground. A man dies and another takes his place, and again, and again, and again.
God is at most One.
Until we get there.
In the meantime, beware of sinners and scorners. And if you're not sure, trust your instincts.