Last week, we read in Parsha Beshallach about the departure from Egypt (Heb. “Mitzrayim”, or “narrows,” which the mystical tradition identifies with the forces of constraint and bad-habitry). Among the other nifty details is this one, from Exodus 13:21: “And YHVH went before them by day in pillar of cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light.”
This is traditionally seen as a cloud shot through with flame — one phenomenon (or metaphor-target) with two aspects. At our post-Shabbat Dinner chevrusa, Ann & I proposed this:
– When things go well, it’s easy to see the Path. When they don’t, we need a reminder that it’s there at all.
– The cloud also figures in this week’s portion, Yitro, where it surrounds Mt. Sinai prior to the Ten Statements. Perhaps this is one of Torah’s (not-so-)subtle Hints that, as Heraclitus put it (init caps added by me]: “The Nature of things is in the habit of concealing Itself.” In other words, that G!d can only manifest in hiddenness — in the mystery of direct experience.
I think this is one of the many, many things ungotten by Christopher Hitchens, Pat Robertson and other dogmatists: “If you can figure God out, what you’ve figured out isn’t God.” Buncha weenies — cluttering up the Godscape with conditions and qualifications, as though the primate brain has an exclusive on Truth…