An ancient Jewish blessing supposedly goes, “May you be covered in the dust of your rabbi.” The idea is that a rabbi’s disciples—those who took on his yoke, his set of interpretations of scripture—were to follow so closely behind him when they walked that they would become caked in the dust he kicked up with his feet. The blessing had a literal meaning but was primarily metaphoric, and the common Christian saying “following in the footsteps of Jesus” conveys the same idea (albeit less poetically!).
This blessing for religious learners is expounded on in the short film Dust by Rob Bell, embedded below, which is part of the NOOMA series. Its content evolved into what became chapter 5 of the book Velvet Elvis.
(I am aware that since making this video Bell has veered far off-center of orthodox Christianity and has thus lost the esteem of evangelical leaders, but that doesn’t mean we need to reject all his teachings. Dust was my first introduction to Bell—almost ten years ago!—and while I am disappointed with the direction he has taken, I appreciate his desire to ask questions and to seek fresh ways to articulate the truths of scripture.)
In this video Bell explains what it meant to be a rabbi’s disciple in Jesus’s day, which can give us a better understanding of what compelled Peter and Andrew to drop their nets when Rabbi Jesus called them, and what it means for us to be chosen by Jesus today.
If you are interested in learning more about this traditional blessing, I commend to you the blog post “Covered in the Dust of Your Rabbi: An Urban Legend?” by Lois Tverberg. In response to a writer’s allegation that the “dust” blessing is commonly misinterpreted by Christians, Tverberg examines its primary source, the Mishnah, as well as Jewish commentaries.