Can anyone have a vision of God? Does a vision of God inevitably transform your life?
The Torah tells us: “Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and 70 of the elders of Israel ascended (Mt Sinai). They saw the God of Israel, under whose feet was a Ma’a’seh (an event, occurrence, appearance or experience) like a pedestal of sapphire, like an essence of sky for purity. God did not lay a hand on the leaders of Israel. They envisioned God, and they ate and drank. (Exodus 24:9-11)
1- A vision is not reserved only for a prophet (Moses) or a priest (Aaron). Of the elders of Israel, 70 were granted or merited (the best leaders of the elders) this blessing. The elders were like Aaron, the leaders were men like Moses or women like Miriam the prophet. (Exodus 15:20)
2- After this Divine experience they did not become remote ascetics or sacred gurus. They simply continued, in a much more spiritual way, their worldly tasks (eating and drinking).
3- Moses, who pleads to see YHVH face to face is told, “You cannot see my face, for no mortal shall see me and live.” (33:18-20) Torah teaches us that no finite creature can, fully and totally unite with the Infinite Creator of the universe.
4- The 74 envision Elohay Yisrael not YHVH, but the God of Israel’s covenant. Elohim is the generic Semitic term for divinities (Elohah in Aramaic and Allah in Arabic). Spiritual experiences are always nutritious; but nutrition comes in hundreds of different foods.
So in every culture and nation, and not only in Israel, there are people who have spiritual experiences. YHVH calls the 74 up (24:1) on Mount Sinai. They all experience a vision of Elohim but only Moses will receive the Ten Commandments. See #5
5- Sometimes the Divine experience does not lead one to greater levels of love, mercy and humility. Sometimes it leads to arrogance and fanaticism. Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, decide to offer strange fire before YHVH and die. (Numbers 3:2 & 26:60). Moses himself gets angry with Israel, calls them bad names and hits the rock. He is banned from entering the Holy Land.
Today, many cult leaders and political zealots claim God told them holy ends justify evil means. Others claim that the God within is the only standard to follow. Spirituality should lead one to community service, not to holy self righteousness or self centered fulfillment.
What does our Torah teach us about a Divine vision?
6- God stands (is based) on a Ma’aseh, an activity, event, action, or experience. A Divine vision grows out of an experience or an event that is perceived to be awesome and holy. It occurs partly in space/time and partly in the mind of the one who experiences it.
7- A pedestal or a brick is human made. A sapphire (Sapir is the Hebrew word in our verse) jewel is God- nature made. You can experience Divinity in nature, or in human activity. personally or in history, by yourself or in a group.
8- In Hebrew Sapir is the same root as the verb to number, and to relate a story. Safer is a book. Sippur is a story. Sofer is a scribe. Mispar is a number. God can also be experienced through math, books, or life’s narratives, when one feels overwhelming awe through them.
Sefer Yetsirah, the most important of the early Kabbalah books, already points this out.
9- The heavens/sky is conventionally the abode of the Divine. But these verses teach us that purity is present as part of God’s basic essence, frame and structure i.e. as bone is for flesh.
Mitsvot (for Jews) are a basic structure of Jewish spirituality.