Miriam Heller Stern, Ph.D.

Vice Provost for Educational Strategy;
National Director, School of Education

Miriam Stern

Finding Revelation in Challenging Times

“Can I not be like the artisan?” asks God. “With an imperfect world in My hands — can I not reshape it, recreate it anew?”We improvised a virtual “Beit HaYotzer,” a creative thought studio, named for a prophetic conversation Jeremiah has with God. In a moment of challenge, Jeremiah has trouble hearing God, and God tells him: “If you want to truly understand My prophecy, go down to the Beit HaYotzer — the artisan’s studio, the potter’s studio — and watch how the artisan plays with, crafts, and recrafts the clay.” Inevitably, the clay will have imperfections; it may even become ruined. But the artisan will continue to perfect it, shaping the material into something new.A year ago, the 49-day marking of time from Passover to Shavuot felt like a true contemporary wilderness. Locked down. Scared. Reckoning. Searching for inspiration, I turned to some of my most creative colleagues, the artist scholars of HUC-JIR’s Beit HaYotzer/the Creativity Braintrust, for guidance. How would we find revelation — or would revelation find us, as we tried to “stand at Sinai” in the metaphorical sense, amidst such uncertainty?

Revelation Book CoverWhat is special about the artisan’s studio that we want to reclaim? The idea of making and remaking, with an openness to finding new meanings and forms; the humility and patience required to try again even after failure; and the optimism, even in the face of disruption, that something new can be discovered and created.

As we look toward Shavuot, the holiday of Revelation and Receipt of the Torah, we may be wondering how to possibly make sense of our current wilderness. What signposts or compasses guide us? What fuel ignites new ideas in our imagination, to light the way and transform the future, not just receive it?

We began a conversation a year ago about these questions. The dialogue continues to unfold, and we invite you to join to discover your own clarity and meaning.