“Who today experiences the holy, the something more in life which moves us to awe and reverence, and sends us passionately to do God’s work.”
Rabbi Olan begins his sermon of October 11, 1964, with a discussion of the word “holy,” a word which, in our time, has become “outmoded and therefore meaningless.” To help us better understand this word, he cites the story of Moses and the burning bush, a familiar story from our Sunday school days. Yet who of us would think to identify with Moses? How could this story relate to our own busy and pragmatic lives? At the same time, speaking of the Biblical faith, Rabbi Olan asserts that “the experience of the holy is its heart, its very essence.”
In many aspects of our lives, we are missing out on the kinds of experiences that make life meaningful. Among those aspects is compassion. Where the suffering wrought by poverty and racism is ignored, how can we open a space in our lives for an experience like Moses had? How do we get there? Rabbi Olan believes that though “it is not easy to acquire the ability to experience life… it can be learned. It takes discipline and perseverance, it requires consistent work and steady attention. But it can be done.” With regard to the experience of the holy, “If a person can discipline himself to the point where he knows that he is in the presence of something more than his mind or senses reveal, he can go from there and live.”
*Written by Frances Olan.*
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