About this blog

This Blog is named after an ancient gnoseological riddle which hints hidden, disseminated, omnipresent wisdom.
I invite you to search, listen and observe with me for "the word of tree, whisper of stone, and humming together of the abyss and stars."


Long Exodic Journey

Thirty years ago I and my Central European friends lived through quite radical changes. Those were the heady times of the Velvet Revolution and the breaking down of the Berlin Wall. The Russian totalitarian regime in Central Europe had just collapsed, the Iron Curtain was no more, reunification of Germany started to be discussed and Vaclav Havel was president.... After many many decades of occupation, oppression, political and economic corruption and a permeating cold war with the constant danger of nuclear annihilation we were just starting to breathe freely, almost nothing seemed impossible.

          And exactly at that time, as we were intoxicated with the newly achieved freedom our professor of the Hebrew Bible gave us an ice cold shower. We have just left Egypt, he told us. Soon you will be serving churches and your task will be to lead your congregations through the forty years of a wilderness pilgrimage. Gaining freedom is the first step, preserving it, expanding it and learning how to live with it will be the center of the true spiritual struggle. 

            And he was so right, so prophetic, so prescient! Just look at Hungary or Poland these days! My native Czech Republic or the original lands of the East Germany are still struggling with it...  Even if everything goes right - such great societal transitions do move like glaciers, slowly with geological speeds, requiring patience and tons of perseverance because unfortunately they can be easily stopped, reverted or overturned. Just think about, in our American experience how it was with the Emancipation, Reconstruction and what happened afterwards.

            My professor was not clairvoyant - he just knew well his Hebrew Bible. He knew, he taught us, that the Exodus was not history, I learned from him that it was best described as a legend or a myth, but exactly for that reason it was perfectly suited to describe our human nature and experience across ages. The crossing of the sea into the freedom is always just the beginning. It is followed by forty years of a tough journey requiring discipline, patience and perseverance.

            Complexities of the Exodus journey, that road to freedom, will be our theme this Sunday. Join us to learn and be encouraged.



Bovine theology

You probably know the infamous story of the golden calf. When Moses was up on the mountain, Israelites beneath the mountain created for themselves out of their gold an idol, a statue of a bull (Exo 32). And shortly afterwards they were seriously reprimanded and punished for it. It is so deeply rooted in our culture that in western languages the golden calf became synonymous with false gods, for false religion, for idolatry.  
    But reality might not be that simple and straightforward because we know that in the old parts of the Hebrew Bible God, YAHWEH, is actually linked with bovine imagery. One ancient divine title, which is often translated as “The Mighty One of Jakob/Israel” (for instance Gen 49:24 or Psalm 132) originally meant and can be more precisely translated as “The Bull of Jakob/Israel”.
    There are also a few passages which speak about God’s horn or horns (Hab 3:4). Even Moses when he returned from the final meeting with the LORD a few chapters later (Exo 34) - there is a very strange passage -- Moses returned and on his head were horns, so that he had to veil his face not to scare people. (But don’t look for it in the most modern translations - they absolutely unplausibly translate that Moses’ face was shining and that is why he wailed himself. But in reality in the Hebrew text it is clear - Moses grew HORNS.  
    There was evidently a time when the bovine imagery was acceptable even as an honorific attribute for the biblical God. So what happened that the image of bull was abandoned? Why did the bovine imagery and theology become cursed? Why did it become a synonym for idolatry and blasphemy?
    Clearly bulls, calves and cows are innocent, it is not their shape or their nature. Biblical story is deeper and more serious for us today. Here is a spoiler - real cows have nothing to do with our idolatry. They are lovely, curious, intelligent and as our Hindu neighbors would say, they are holy animals. If anything is connected with our idolatry then it is what we project into the cows and how we portray them. In our own otherwise very urban city a cow on a sidewalk (actually a statue of a charging bull) is a quintessential example of our proclivity towards worshiping ourselves, our vaingloriousness, our individual and collective delusion of grandeur and power.
    Come this Sunday as we learn from the bible to love and respect cows and avoid Idolatry and dangerous false religions of our own days.




Which Decalogue?

Do you remember the political and legal fights over displaying the Ten Commandments in courts and public spaces? In the Bible Belt they appear with almost boring regularity. And when they happen I always wanted to ask, which Ten Commandments are they so obdurately requiring and defending.

            I want to ask because each main Judeo-Christian tradition has its very own version of the Ten Commandments. Jews, Roman Catholics, and Protestants each have their different version. They always end up with TEN commandments - but each tradition reaches that number differently. 

            And it goes as far as artistic representation of the ten commandments. When they are presented on two tablets one can usually tell which religious tradition is presenting them. Jews divide commandments 5 on each tablet. Roman Catholics and Lutherans, not always, but often divide them 3 commandments on one tablet and 7 on the other. Calvinists and other Protestants often have 4 and 6.

            The Bible itself does not make things any easier because in the Bible there are two versions of the Ten Commandments. One is in the book of Exodus and another version is in Deuteronomy. AND THEY ARE NOT IDENTICAL. These two versions contain about two dozen differences. Some differences are just minor - stylistic (presence or absence of copula), some are more substantial - lexical (choice of words and synonyms). But for instance the entire explanation why to keep Sabbath holy is completely different between versions.

            I take these differences and this diversity as the Holy Spirit reminding us that what really matters are not individual words, but their essence, their meaning, their message.

            Join us this Sunday when we discern and rejoice in the diversity of the Law and its message.


Three times miraculous manna

If you have over two million people in a desert, and that is what the Bible implies for Exodus (600,000 men without women and children), you have over two million people marching through the deserts and wilderness and you have a big problem. Every single day you need for them over two metric tons of food (based on the humanitarian daily rations).

            Biblical authors recognized this hurdle and offered a neat solution. All those people received manna, miraculous food dropped by God directly from heaven (almost like those humanitarian daily rations). They received it for all the forty years of their wilderness wandering.

            After the Bible was written, rabbis familiar with the Sinai climate and geography realized that there was another problem. After all those forty years and two million people, there should had been a mountain of waste, about 30,000 tons. Although desert climate would perfectly preserve it, the waste was not there, it was missing.

            They came up with a lovely and elegant solution. Manna was miraculous food and ergo it miraculously did not leave any waste. That explained provisions and missing waste but a rabble-rouser might ask, “what about human physiology?” How could anyone, besides carnivorous Texans and Wisconsin cheeseheads (I know I know those are stereotypes), deal with no residue diet for forty years? It might be an utter torture! No wonder the Israelites were so ill disposed and grumpy all their sojourns in wilderness. Unless, of course, they were provided with miraculous plasma coated gastrointestinal tracts.

            Enough of this fundamentalistic silliness! Exodus is not to be taken literally, but it can still be taken seriously. Exodus is a saga (In a similar manner as Odyssey or Anabasis) and it is a thrilling and formative legend. Within it, manna, that miraculous food from heaven, is a parable, a powerful and important parable.

            Join us this Sunday as we explicate this parable and rejoice in divine loving care, and divine will for all the hungry.

Picture from our Deacons' Thursday Meal Program during pandemic.