Adonai, my crag, my fortress, my rescuer, my God, my rock in whom I seek refuge, my shield, my mighty champion, my haven…. Then the earth rocked and quaked; the foundations of the mountains shook, rocked by His indignation…. I ground them fine as windswept dust; I trod them flat as dirt of the streets. (18:3, 8, 43)
My senior sermon delivered during my final year of Rabbinical School played with the image of the rock as an image as a representation of God. I’ve always lived in a place where the earth is fairly solid and still, so the image of God as bedrock makes sense to me. Only once have I been in an earthquake – an early morning in Jerusalem – and my first thought was that a convoy of very large trucks must be driving by to make the building shake for such a long time. My roommate Larry, from Washington, immediately recognized it for what it was and had jumped out of bed and was standing in the doorway, which he later told me was the safest place to be during an earthquake.
The Psalmist envisions God’s power as a bedrock, but by no means sees God as being confined to the rock. God’s anger breaks the rock, shaking it, and ultimately grinding it down to dust.
Maimonides understood that any language we use to describe God is inadequate. The metaphor of a rock is destroyed by an earthquake. Elijah looked for God in the earthquake, in the whirlwind, and instead found God in the thinness of silence.
What is thinner and more silent that a force of attraction? Perhaps we might read Elijah’s story as one of finding God in the attractive forces that bind the sub-atomic particles together. Those particles, so few of them, combine in increasingly intricate ways to form a multitude of solid forms, including rock and including carbon based biological life forms.
Thus my God infused fingers press on keys made from the remains of the ancient dead, rearranging electrons in their orbits and thus changing patterns of light. Sometimes, after I finish a sermon or an article, I think to myself – if what I have produced is good, it is because God is speaking through me. God gets the credit. If what I have produced is nonsense, it is because I have not paid close enough attention to the Divine voice. I get the blame.