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September 30, 1988 - Image 33

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-09-30

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Adat Shalom Synagogue

cordially invites, you to attend

A Congregational Tribute Dinner



Sorting Out Pronouns:
I, Thou, God And Moses


Special to The Jewish News


n the Sabbath during
Sukkot, we read sec-
tions of the Book of
Exodus, Chapters 33 and 34.
Here we find a wonderful en-
counter between God and
Moses. What is striking is
that they speak face to face,
as a person speaks to a friend.
We see not a distant and im-
personal speculation about
God, but the reflection of an
intimte relationship with
Moses models what it is to
live in the presence of God, in
the constant awareness of
God's nearness. But, as in all
relationships, (and here we
are reminded of our human
relationships) things do not
always proceed smoothly.
Relationships are never stag-

God and Moses
sound more like
parents arguing
about "what your
child did today."

nant. And in this sidrah, we
see one of those times of ten-
sion between Moses and God.
Indeed, we might even say
that Moses and God are argu-
ing. There is a certain fascina-
tion in watching this argu-
ment, in observing the
rhetoric of both parties. A
close reading of the text
reveals a delightful emphasis
on pronouns.
Pronouns are very impor-
tant in the way we unders-
tand ourselves. All of us are
confronted with choices of
In this Sidrah, Moses and
God make clever use of pro-
nouns. Each tells the other
that this people is "your peo-
ple!' Here the Master of the
Universe and Moses our
teacher sound more like
parents arguing about "what
your child did today!' What a
delightful insight into the
domestic relations of Our
Father and Our Teacher!
How different this sounds
from the more staid expecta-
tions we bring to reading the
Bible. Too often we assume
the Torah is a book of
dignified instruction, told for
the purpose of enunciating
some set of ideal human
behavior. Here we find a
much more down-to-earth

Daniel Polish is senior rabbi
at Temple Beth El.

depiction of the dynamics of
relationship. The story
reminds us of just how impor-
tant relationship is.
When we think of religious
life, we tend to think of
theology, of understanding
God or of having some kind of
intellectual image of God.
This story makes all of that
secondary and reminds us
that what counts is living in
relationship with God.
And the story recalls to us
the importance of the rela-
tionships that make up our
own life. Martin Buber
reminds us of the importance
of pronouns. His famous book
is called I and Thou. In it, he
enunciated the idea that we
can look at other people in
our life as "thou" or "it."
People who populate our
lives can be related to as ob-
jects put within our reach to
serve as some instrumental
function in our life — they
become an "it." Or they can
be "thous," with whom we
can enter into relationship,
whom we see as three-
dimensional beings, and for
whom we must feel the most
empathic concern.
Too often in our daily life,
members of our family,
friends, people whom we en-
counter in the course of our
day, become "its." We become
irritated when they do not
serve our interests.
"Its" are interchangeable,
and they are merely means to
an end. So much suffering
and unhappiness is caused by
this way of looking at others.
Buber teaches that relation-
ship is not easy. It can be dif-
ficult, it is always challeng-
ing, but it is also enriching. A
"thou" is always a fuller be-
ing than an "it." They have
more surprises. They have
more dimensions to them.
The pronouns that we use
to describe those about us are
as important as the pronouns
Moses and God used to
describe the people Israel.
Ultimately, Moses is able
again to talk about the
Jewish people as "my people."
And God is able to reconcile
Himself and affirm the people
as his own.
This kind of change of pro-
noun is of more than gram-
matical interest. It reveals
the very stuff of our lives.
Just as Moses and God are
able to reconcile and carry on
after they have gotten their
pronouns worked out, so can
we build happier more fulfill-
ed lives when we work out the
pronouns of our own rela-

on his tenth year as Spiritual Leader of the Synagogue
and his twenty-fifth year in the Rabbinate

Sunday, October 16
Adat Shalom Synagogue

Cocktail Reception 5:30 p.m.
Tribute to Rabbi Spectre 6:30 p.m.
Dinner 7:15 p.m.
Followed by guest speaker,
Mr.Elie Wiesel

Rabbi Spectre will be presented
with an Honorary Doctorate Degree
by Rabbi William Lebeau,
Vice-chancellor of the
Jewish Theological Seminary.


Couvert $40 per person
Please respond by October 7

Honorary Chairman



Dinner Co-Chairmen



Committee Chairmen

Beverly Liss

Patricia Eichenhom
Robert Pangborn
Sylvia Starkman

Guest Hospitality
Beverly & Robert Dock
Babette & Willard Posen
Arlene & Asher Tilchin

Roberta Blitz
Elaine Rosenblatt

Claudia Gold

Reservations & Seating
Alita Cyrlin
Terran Leemis

Shabbat Kiddush
Judith Leder
Pam Saiba
Alan Kaufman
Gerald Rosenbloom
Florine Mark Ross

Sidney Feldman
Jonathan Jaffa

For Information and Reservations, call 851-5100.



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