Siggi awoke to pain. Pain in his ribs. Pain in his arms. Pain in his legs, and especially pain in his buttocks. He found himself in a tangle of wooden beams radiating outward from him, as if he were a giant dove in a nest of acacia wood.
Siggi jumped to his teenaged feet and gathered the broken tower pieces, strewn wood and assorted tools. He looked at the nearby Tabernacle on the Moabite plain. He would start again. I must make the base stronger, he thought. Siggi dug deeper holes to anchor his support beams. He hastily hammered wooden planks together. He combed back a dark unruly curl of hair that kept obscuring his view. He completed one level of his structure. He swung on the horizontal beams confirming their sturdiness. He climbed up the structure, stood on the planks and nailed the next level of his structure together.
“Siggi, what are you doing?” Paiti the elder asked from the ground below.
“I’m fulfilling my destiny. I am getting closer to God.”
“Isn’t it obvious? The Tabernacle is the closest we can get to God on earth, but God is above. We are supposed to get as close as we can to God, so that’s what I’m doing.” Siggi continued hammering.
“You’re building a tower to get closer to God?”
“Yes, would you like to join me?”
“How many times have you tried this already?” Paiti looked at the strewn remains of previous towers.
“Four or five times. But I’m getting better each try. I’m learning a lot every time the tower collapses. It doesn’t dissuade me. This is my destiny and I am determined. It’s my life’s mission and I will accomplish it.”
“Siggi, you know, the last people who built a tower to the heavens did not fare so well.”
“I know. But they were doing it for the wrong reasons. I don’t want to fight God. I want to get close to him, as Moses taught us. I will get close to God and share that closeness with everyone else on the ground below.”
“That is a noble sentiment Siggi, but I think you are going about it the wrong way.”
“How can that be? God is above. I need to get to God. That’s where I’m going.” Siggi pointed up. “I don’t know why no one thought of this beforehand.” Siggi combed back his curl and continued hammering.
“Siggi, please come down so we can converse normally.”
“I don’t want to waste any time.” Siggi hammered. “Every moment is precious. It’s another instant I can be closer to God.”
“Siggi, listen to me. You’re going the wrong way.”
“What do you mean?”
“Descend and I will explain.”
Siggi blew air out of his mouth, momentarily flipping up his curl of hair. “Okay, I’m coming down.” He climbed down the rickety wooden tower.
“It is true that God is above,” Paiti explained. “But he is also here below.”
“I don’t understand. Moses climbed up Mount Sinai to spend forty days and forty nights with God. He climbed to the very top. He didn’t get together somewhere on the slope of the mountain. I too need to build my tower and climb as high as I can.”
“Moses on Mount Sinai was a very unique event with a special closeness between God and Moses and the delivery of our Torah. That is not an event that can ever be replicated in that fashion. But God is amongst us here and now. On the ground. The ground that you are standing on contains God’s presence.”
“God is right here, right now, right where I’m standing?”
“Absolutely. We find and connect with God through our actions, by studying and following His laws. It is not only a matter of physical proximity.”
“Thank you, Paiti. This makes my job so much easier.”
“I’m glad to be of service.” Paiti smiled and strode on. A few steps away he heard a furious noise behind him. He turned and saw Siggi digging enthusiastically. He walked back to Siggi and the rapidly expanding pit.
“What are you doing?”
“Getting closer to God. Just like you told me.”
“You just said He’s here, right where I was standing.”
Paiti’s mouth opened but no words came out. Siggi continued digging.
Paiti sat down cross-legged on the Moabite plain within sight of the Tabernacle walls and took a deep breath.
“Siggi, you misunderstand. God cannot be reached merely by building a tower or digging a hole or crossing the sea. God is everywhere. He is all around us. You must find him through your actions. Through study. Through prayer. If you follow the instruction of Moses, the laws, the statutes, the commandments, then you will find God. You will feel Him in your heart, in your mind. You will be with Him and He will be with you. That is the way to go about it. Not by building ships to cross the sea.”
Siggi looked up from his digging. “I’m sorry, Paiti. I wasn’t paying attention. Did you say I should build a ship to reach God?”
* * * * * *
“For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not too hard for thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou should say: ‘Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou should say: ‘Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?’”