torquing faith: do the twist

24 Aug

Someone turned me on to new author (new to me, anyway). Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg. How could someone with that name not have something to say worth hearing. The book is Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodus. Cross pollination is a good thing…


Moses, single-minded “man of God,” is chosen for his role because he “turned aside to see” the Burning Bush. the-particulars-of-raptureAccording to one radical midrash, “Moses craned his neck to see”: this “turning” is a torsion of the the neck, a deliberate motion out of the straight, the stiff:

Moses said, Let me turn aside to see…Rabbi Jonathan said, “He took three steps;” Rabbi Simeon ben Levi said, “He took no steps, but he twisted his neck. God said to him, “You went to trouble to see – as you live, you are worthy that I should reveal Myself to you.” Immediately, “God called to him from the midst of the burning bush…”

God chose to reveal Himself to Moses, because he has “gone to trouble to see.” As against Rabbi Jonathan’s spatial reading (three steps constitute the movement into a different space), Rabbi Simeon condenses Moses’ movement to a “twist of the neck.” Subtle, minimalistic, Moses’ gesture realigns his whole being, puts it into intimate relation with that which has approached him. Such a gesture involves “trouble,” a deviation from the obvious. For Rabbi Simeon, it is his capacity to “twist his neck,” to turn his face in wonder and questioning, that brings him to the voice of God.

The neck in torsion – an image for desire, a counter-image to the stiff-necked intransigence of those who set themselves against the new. Within Moses himself, within his people, within the Egyptians, even within the representations of God in the narratives of redemption, the tensions of Exodus will seek resolution, the momentary equilibrium that again and again is to be lost and reclaimed.


Ah, faith, the torquing of the neck.

So then religion at its worst, politics too often at its best, and all our mad pursuits would be the snapping of it. Or at least a sleeper hold inviting submission. Or a brace that keeps our neck stiff, our eyes deadeningly fixed on the ground before us.

No, not exactly this...

No, not exactly this…

But faith twists. It has radical torsion.



But realigning the whole being.

Turning the face in wonder.

And questioning

...or this

…or this

And finding not only the Voice, but no doubt also


We need more radical midrashes from ancient rabbis. We do. Love the connective tissue between a radical midrash and the ancient Gospel. We are all more on the same page than we realize or would ever care to admit.

“Who ever looks to the Son and believes in him has eternal life.”

...and definitely not this

…and definitely not this

It’s more than a glance, it’s an intentional gaze, and it involves the torsion of the neck. Faith requires us to twist.

One more time.

“We shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.”

I know what Twinkies were, but I have no idea what twinkling is. Okay, I just looked it up and I guess it means blinking. In the blink of an eye. But the Greek is quite literally the throwing of the eyes, aka the casting of a glance. Life, resurrection is the result of one intentional turning of the head. Saved by grace through neck torsion.

Just one look. If we dare. If we can stop ourselves long enough to.

And do the twist.




Posted by on August 24, 2013 in Faith, haverings


Tags: , , , , ,

2 responses to “torquing faith: do the twist

  1. After the Masters

    August 24, 2013 at 7:23 pm

    I look over Marc Chagall’s work to depict this iconic moment and I wonder about repainting them “with a twist.”

  2. wordhaver

    August 24, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    I saw that one! Do it, Gina. Do it! 🙂


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