Second Take on Re’eh – Devarim 11:26-16:17
Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 9, 2007
Focal Points: 12:8-10 and 13:1-8
8. You shall not do as all the things that we do here this day, every man [doing] what he deems fit. 9. For you have not yet come to the resting place or to the inheritance, which the Lord, your God, is giving you. 10. And you shall cross the Jordan and settle in the land the Lord, your God, is giving you as an inheritance, and He will give you rest from all your enemies surrounding you, and you will dwell securely.
I commented on a friend’s Blog the other day about an allegorical “time-line” within Torah and Tanakh.
“Perhaps this is another part of the “growing up” thing? If one reads the Tanakh as an allegory of Human Life reality – we are conceived (Creation), we are born (Expulsion from Gan Eden) we learn the elementaries of Human Life and build our first relationships – that to our parents and family as well as a fundamental relationship to G-d (The Patriarchs) we go to school and learn the intermediaries of Human Life along with the difficult adolescent years of rebellion and acquiring new values and “graduate” to the next part of life – responsibility over a home of our own (The Exodus and Conquering) in which we then expected to grow further, and part of this is realizing that although Mom and Dad are still there for us, they won’t come running just because we skin a knee or want them to be there ASAP – they need to be considerate of their own lives and we need to learn detachment as well as how to function without constant supervision (The Prophets and Writings).”
A Child’s life is in a way a time for trial and error – because it’s still learning – The time in the Desert was a time when The People was still learning, still doing it as “he deems fit” and what it seems on an individual level, for the sake of personal gratification perhaps, at the very least, to hear Mom or Dad, say “Well done!” or “You can do better than that!” or “Your Grounded!” Moshe was definitely Grounded big time! – The entire older generation was Grounded 🙂 It is clear that The People had been doing things quite differently during their travels on the Sinai Peninsula – not just in regards to the Mishkan (Tabernacle), but basically on a little of all issues… And now, that they are about to cross over into The Land – G-d tells them that this cannot be IN The Land. Uhuh, Sir, gotta shape up! Gotta get those rule down pat, Yessir!
To continue the allegory – the Child eventually grows up into a young adult, leaves Mom and Dad behind and have to fend for him/herself, in a new home, new apartment, that is all his/her own and that living will be based on what he/she was taught up till that point.
“Now, why on earth should I keep kosher – the Gentiles have been eating pork and shrimp and mixing milk and meat for millennia, and they are still around, so what’s big deal, any way? You don’t see them wearing weird pieces of clothes with strings on them, or cover their heads, or wrap leather straps around their heads and arms, and they sure don’t pray three times a day, they can have sex whenever they please and work on Saturdays to their hearts content, so why shouldn’t I be able to do just that?”
Because those are not the Tradition, Mitzvot and Torah of your forefathers. Those are the ways of those who did not hear the Torah on Har Sinai, who did not say: “All that the Lord spoke we will do and we will hear.” (Shemot 24:7)
“1. Everything I command you that you shall be careful to do it. You shall neither add to it, nor subtract from it. 2. If there will arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of a dream, and he gives you a sign or a wonder,3. and the sign or the wonder of which he spoke to you happens, [and he] says, “Let us go after other gods which you have not known, and let us worship them,” 4. you shall not heed the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of a dream; for the Lord, your God, is testing you, to know whether you really love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul. 5. You shall follow the Lord, your God, fear Him, keep His commandments, heed His voice, worship Him, and cleave to Him. 6. And that prophet, or that dreamer of a dream shall be put to death; because he spoke falsehood about the Lord, your God Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and Who redeemed you from the house of bondage, to lead you astray from the way in which the Lord, your God, commanded you to go; so shall you clear away the evil from your midst. 7. If your brother, the son of your mother, tempts you in secret or your son, or your daughter, or the wife of your embrace, or your friend, who is as your own soul saying, “Let us go and worship other gods, which neither you, nor your forefathers have known.”8. Of the gods of the peoples around you, [whether] near to you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth;”
They say that practice makes perfect, and in the 12 Step Programs they say “Fake it, till you make it” Torah says that if we DO, we will eventually understand “hear”.
Pretty simple, right? So if we have a G-d – which we do, somehow anyway, then keeping in touch with the Traditions, the Mitzvot, Torah, we will get closer to G-d. How do we keep in touch with Tradition, Mitzvot and Torah? By DOING THEM.
“It’s arguable that within mainstream Judaism, direct experience of God isn’t the point — and it certainly isn’t a prerequisite for Jewish practice. We do what we do because it is the Jewish path. Whether or not we feel confident that actual access to God is the endpoint, we follow the mitzvot anyway. Belief arises through action. If we waited until we felt called to act Jewishly, we might never get there — but if we act Jewishly even absent that “call,” we can bring the call into being for ourselves.
For many Jews today, though, that answer may serve as a distancing factor that keeps us from engagement with the tradition in the first place. Our culture privileges direct experience; it makes sense that in this area of our lives, we feel a particular longing for something we can access in our hearts. We want God to be at the center of our practice. We want our practice of mitzvot to follow from a preexisting closeness to God, not the other way around. We want, as this week’s Torah portion suggests, to be in relationship with a God Who we already know.”
For each time I put on my tzitzit, my tefillin, say my Prayers, eat kosher, and celebrate Shabbat, I bring myself closer to G-d. No matter what else my circumstances are, at least I will be right before G-d. To me it cannot get any better than that.