It is hard for me to decide if Michael Fishbane’s theology in Sacred Attunement is complicated or radically simple. He couches it in sometimes convoluted language. He uses phrases like “all-encompassing ground of the vitality that roils in the depths of nature”, “multiform pulsations of Divinity” and “all-effectuating Divinity”. At first this seems very complex. But is he using this language to say something pretty simple over and over in ways that have a cumulative impact on the reader?
He can sum it up by repeating Proverbs 3:6:
Acknowledge him in all your ways,
and he will make your paths straight (NET Bible).
To acknowledge him is to have an attentiveness to God or to have God-mindfulness. You can’t prove the existence of God. But if you pay attention, if you put your ear to the ground, you can perceive the God who is present in the “something more” that presents itself to us in life. And when you are God-aware in all your ways of everyday life, then God will have a moral influence on you and guide you to make your paths straight.
The benefit of the four modes of interpretation that I covered in my last two posts, is that they each represent a different kind of mindfulness.
The basis of them all is the plain meaning of texts and of the world of common sense that comes to our senses, peshat. You do not advance beyond the need for the plain, common sense meaning of things. But there are other kinds of mindfulness. So the insights of derash keep us from becoming fundamentalists or literalists. The hints of remez, even though subject to subjective error, help us sometimes overhaul our worldview and unharden our hearts. And the flights of sod mean that even entertaining wild possibilities can contribute to our attentiveness.
So having a God-mindedness is the essence of theology. The word “all” in Proverbs 3:6 calls us to bring all our physical and spiritual resources to bear on paying attention to God. It means we must respond fully to each moment of life as a possible bearer of divine insight. We must not go through life on automatic pilot. This is not a theology where God does everything and human effort matters little. No. Much depends on humans turning their attention to God.
After re-expressing this call to God-mindedness, Fishbane turns to the ways Jewish people cultivate their spirituality. The first will be a discussion of the practice of halakah.
It is a long discussion and I will cover it later. But for now I leave you with a sample of Fishbane re-expressing his main claim:
“. . .God is ever YHWH–which means (we are told) that God shall ever be as God shall be. This mode of ever-new omnipresence is confirmed in daily experience, where the mulitform pulsations of Divinity so variously impact our lives and minds and hearts. Many are the ways that our thoughtless habituations are smashed and God’s living ‘Shall Be’ is perceived.