A QUESTION OF SEQUENCE
A friend pointed out an interesting anomaly in a portion of our liturgy. There are a number of places in the service, notably early in the Torah service where we say “HaShem Melech, HaShem Moloch HaShem Yimloch la’olam va’ed, God is King, God was King, God will be king for ever and ever. It is beautiful and striking statement of the eternity of God. There is, though, an inconsistency. It is out of order. Why present tense, past tense, and future tense rather that the chronology of past present and future?
I thought about this and the first answer I came up with was based on my understanding of human nature and, perhaps, ego. We are here now, so we think first of the now, a world with us in it. Thus, it becomes important the God is King when we are here. But we still need to reminded of God’s supremacy and eternity so we “add” the realization that our Creator has always been, even before us, and always will be, even after we are gone. These last two elements of the statement bring us back to a reality in which we understand that we are not the most important or consistent element.
Another thought is that since we are in the here-and-now our behaviors need to focused on what we do now and that we are subject to a Higher Authority. This Higher Authority, whom we refer to as King (or, to be gender neutral, Monarch), has imposed upon us a set of morality and ethics that we need to keep in mind when conducting our daily business and personal lives. We also must understand that our interaction with what I like to refer to as “God’s Other Children” will affect the livability and orderliness of all our lives. While this helps explain the primacy of the present tense, we must also be cognizant that our society our beliefs our practices are an offshoot and product of those who came before us. Our society, hopefully influenced by Godliness, did not arise in a vacuum, cut from the whole cloth. We must learn from the past, learning and growing from the mistakes of those who came before and building on what they got right. At the same time, it logically follows that just as we are a product of the world’s past we are also an influence on the future. We are responsible for our effect on future generations, generation for whom God is still King and who will learn and develop from us. We have a responsibility to them and to God leave behind a better world than the one we inherited.
In all these thoughts God is the common denominator. I realize that I have placed more emphasis on our external activities, the relationships Bain Adam v’chavero. I do not mean for a moment to diminish the importance of ritual, or observance of the laws bein Adan v’Makom, between human and God. This is how we express our gratitude to and acknowledgement of our God who created teaches and protects us They are our reminder of God’s eternity, universality, and supremacy and to Whom we are, have been and will always be thankful and obedient.
This brings me to one final thought. Maybe the phrase is in the “wrong” order to teach us that, to God, sequence doesn’t matter. Time, while important to us as noted by the Shabbat and the holidays, what we call sacred time, and in even greater part because, for us, it is limited, is meaningless to God. Whatever the permutations of “was” “is” and “forever will be” God is simply “ALWAYS”