Deut. 32 refers to G-d multiple times as “The Rock. And we think we know what “G-d is my rock” means. How hard could it be, after all? A rock is hard and firm, unyielding, and undeniably present. It is (at least in our normal time) unchanging and static.
Except that the word is not used this way in the Torah – and (to me at least) quite intriguingly so. The first time the Hebrew word from Deut 32 (“tzur”) is used is when Moses’ wife, Zipporah, performs an emergency circumcision (Ex. 4:25).
So Zipporah took a rock and cut off her son’s foreskin, and touched his legs with it, saying, “You are truly a bridegroom of blood to me!”
In so doing, she saves her husband’s life, enabling him to continue with his mission. So a “rock” in this case is an implement, a tool to be used by mankind in order to achieve higher spiritual heights.
Zipporah’s rock is not static; it is dynamic and kinetic. It cuts through flesh and changes our reality. The rock performs both a practical and a spiritual function.
The second time the Torah uses the word “tzur” is Ex. 17:6.
I will be standing there before you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock and water will issue from it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.
This rock is also not a static unchanging thing, but a source of potential sustenance. Water in the Torah, as with many other cultures, is symbolic of sustenance and prosperity, life and holy potential. The rock, as the source of this water, becomes the origin of all of these things.
So when, in Deut. 32 Moses calls G-d “The Rock,” we should understand it in this context: G-d is not cold and constant, but instead is a means to grow ourselves in holiness, the source of material and spiritual sustenance.
Yom Kippur starts tomorrow. May we all be sealed for a year of blessing and goodness, prosperity and health. May we always strive to grow to be better people, a people that grows in wealth and in holiness through our relationships to each other and to our Creator.
[another @iwe and @susanquinn work]