The Revelation at Mount Sinai was very impressive. There was tremendous thunder and lightning. The experience was so overwhelming that the Torah says the people saw the sounds, that they had a synaesthetic experience. In fact, the Hebrew is in the present tense, Roim et hakolot, that seems to imply that they are still seeing the sounds today.
Right after this, God says to build an altar. You might expect Gold, silver, diamonds, at least some kinds of precious metals and stones.
Instead, God says take the rocks around you and make an altar. Take them exactly the way they are. Don’t shape them in any way.
Let’s go back to Egypt for a moment. The Egyptians were obsessed with symmetry and perfection. The Pyramids are made of precisely cut stones, each one fitting an exact part of the structure.. The bricks the Israelites were forced to make when building the cities of Ramses and Pitom, had to be perfectly sized and shaped. Each one was the same size as the other, or it would be discarded.
This is how Egypt saw the world. They would force not just materials to the shape they wanted, but people, too. All slaves were exactly the same to them, and they had usefulness as long as they did what Pharaoh wanted. If they did not or could not they were expendable.
Let’s return to the altar God wants us to build. The people were to take the stones as they were and make something holy out of them. Large, small, smooth, jagged, whole, broken. Each was critical.
Good metaphor for people. People come in an endless number of different shapes and sizes, intellectual and physical abilities, and personalities.
So much of our world today is to try to get everyone to fit our image of how they should be, instead of celebrating who they are right now.
Our educational system, from nursery school to graduate school is often about taking all different kinds of students, and then trying to turn them into the same kind of graduate. Standardized tests. People are not standard. Kurt Vonnegut used to say that all people living or dead were purely coincidental implying that each person is unique.
Forcing people into a limited number of acceptable standards not only frustrates many people, but prevents them from finding what they may be successful at doing.
Physical appearance has a narrow range of acceptable levels, too. There are only one or two models of model. Thin and thinner for women. Muscular and more muscular for men. This has lead to an incredible increase in eating disorders among girls and women, and steroid abuse among boys and men.
Families are not simple anymore. They can be blended and unblended. Single parent or multi parent households, multi ethnic and cultural. We have to make everyone and every family feel like they fit somewhere in the community.
It is not easy or simple, but it is worth it. Maybe we ourselves are the difficult one that does not fit.
God created us differently on purpose. Go wants us to be like the altar and find a way to celebrate all those differences.
This is how we can be the model of an Am Kadosh, a holy people.