It’s been a while since I have sat through a science class, 11 years give or take. I dropped it like the plague along with maths when I had the chance and never looked back. I don’t remember a lot but I definitely remember why I am stuck to the earth and not floating away all the time. Gravity. That must have been one of the first classes. If someone asked me why the water bottle that was balancing on the edge of the table flipped over and onto the floor I could explain why (not that anyone needs that explanation nor would they have any reason to ask me to explain). But if someone were to ask me, why does gravity exist? I wouldn’t have the faintest idea. Why? Well it keeps all the stars and planets in check. But why? So that we don’t drift off into space and hit each other. These are all explanations of what it does and why things happen as a result of it but it doesn’t actually answer the question of, why does gravity exist? I mean philosophically. Somethings we don’t actually know and to be honest, don’t need to know. Why? I don’t know.
That answer usually isn’t enough for me. In the words of our saige’s many things are explained as follows; “Because God said it to Moses on Mount Sinai, and so it cannot be questioned.” Yeah, alright mate. But I think the more time I spend outside and the more moments of awe I experience the more I become content with the fact that there are things we just can’t comprehend or explain. Have you ever seen a sunset and just been absolutely amazed? Or have you floated in the waves marvelling at how a current can lift your body so gracefully? You know how it all happens, but do we really know why? Don’t worry, I am not here to say that knowledge doesn’t exist or that nature is unexplainable. It’s just sometimes humbling to have the perspective that even though we may know how and why it all works pragmatically, it’s kind of nice leaving ourselves open to a bit of wonder.
This week we analysed the book of Job. We looked at it through the lens of people who live and work outdoors and used a translation of God’s speech from the whirlwind written by Stephen Mitchell (Link at the bottom). Job is historically understood as a text which asks the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” We read this speech and discussed it through the framework of the natural world and our place within it. When God speaks to Job the relationship between the divine and mortal is put into the perspective of ‘understanding and not’. God compares their own knowledge as the creator to that of a man whose time on earth is short and limited. We get to hear from the complexities of the world and think for a moment what our existence means in relation to that. Quite a humbling experience as a farmer who works outdoors in the natural world.
“Have you walked through the depths of the ocean or dived to the floor of the sea?
Have you stood at the gates of doom, or looked through the gates of death?
Have you seen to the edge of the universe? Speak up, if you have such knowledge.”
The translation is an amazing take on how the world came to be and what is expected of us as humanity within that reality. I may know why the tree is as tall as it is or why the mountain stands as it does poking through the clouds. I know why the sun sets and the moon rises, but it doesn’t mean I cannot appreciate the awe in it every day. The more Jewish outdoor experiences I have the more this passage and idea speaks to me. Getting outside as often as we can to marvel at the beauty.
From the voices of the whirlwind I have come to appreciate my place in this world as a farmer and as a Jew. As is said in Pirkei Avot we must have 2 notes in our pockets, one saying, “For me the earth was created,” and in the other, “I am nothing but dust and ashes.” A little bit of humility never hurt anybody.
Here is the Stephen Mitchell translation of “Voices from the Whirlwind”
Do you count sheep?
Are you an early riser?
Simchat Torah sounded like a blast!
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