Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Still Small Voice

ח וַיָּקָם, וַיֹּאכַל וַיִּשְׁתֶּה; וַיֵּלֶךְ בְּכֹחַ הָאֲכִילָה הַהִיא, אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם וְאַרְבָּעִים לַיְלָה, עַד הַר הָאֱלֹהִים, חֹרֵב.

ט וַיָּבֹא-שָׁם אֶל-הַמְּעָרָה, וַיָּלֶן שָׁם; וְהִנֵּה דְבַר-יְהוָה, אֵלָיו, וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ, מַה-לְּךָ פֹה אֵלִיָּהוּ.

י וַיֹּאמֶר קַנֹּא קִנֵּאתִי לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֵי צְבָאוֹת, כִּי-עָזְבוּ בְרִיתְךָ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל--אֶת-מִזְבְּחֹתֶיךָ הָרָסוּ, וְאֶת-נְבִיאֶיךָ הָרְגוּ בֶחָרֶב; וָאִוָּתֵר אֲנִי לְבַדִּי, וַיְבַקְשׁוּ אֶת-נַפְשִׁי לְקַחְתָּהּ.

יא וַיֹּאמֶר, צֵא וְעָמַדְתָּ בָהָר לִפְנֵי יְהוָה, וְהִנֵּה יְהוָה עֹבֵר וְרוּחַ גְּדוֹלָה וְחָזָק מְפָרֵק הָרִים וּמְשַׁבֵּר סְלָעִים לִפְנֵי יְהוָה, לֹא בָרוּחַ יְהוָה; וְאַחַר הָרוּחַ רַעַשׁ, לֹא בָרַעַשׁ יְהוָה.

יב וְאַחַר הָרַעַשׁ אֵשׁ, לֹא בָאֵשׁ יְהוָה; וְאַחַר הָאֵשׁ, קוֹל דְּמָמָה דַקָּה.

And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meal forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God. And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and He said unto him: 'What doest thou here, Elijah?' And he said: 'I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, thrown down Thine altars, and slain Thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.' And He said: 'Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD.' And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

This portion of Kings is cited in nearly every New Age-y, Jewish Renewal book, as an example of the current status of the Divine in modern life. In this story, the prophet Eliyahu flees the northern kingdom of Israel, after defeating the prophets of Baal. He goes to Mount Horeb (Mount Sinai) to complain to HaShem about his treatment. HaShem seems poised to give Eliyahu the gift that he gave to Moses, to in some sense see HaShem.

Instead, HaShem creates actions in the world, but is not in the world. HaShem creates a wind, but is not in the wind; and an earthquake, but is not in the earthquake, and then a fire, but is not in the fire. And after this, Eliyahu hears a still small voice.

It is unclear where or what this voice is; in JR literature, the voice is within Eliyahu, and by proxy, within us.  This is a pleasant vision of what happened on Sinai.

But there is sad element to this revelation.  Sinai's moment is over. No more thunderous voice of HaShem. Now there is a still small voice. We have even less than Eliyahu. He may have had an “outer” still small voice. We must excavate our own inner “still small voice” which is so often smothered by louder voices.  And every day, it seems those voices grow even louder.