RE'EH (Deu 11:26 - 16:17)  5768 (2008)


Deu 11:26-28

See, I have set before you this day a blessing and a curse; A blessing  if you obey the commandments...And a curse, if you will not obey...but turn aside from the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods....

The specific Blessings and Curses are enumerated elsewhere.  They reflect mostly material events that will happen in This World, during one's lifetime.

How can we explain our perception that good or bad events that happen to a person do not seem to correlate with whether they obey the commandments?

One answer is found in the next verse below - [Read it, and point out: God is testing us].

Deu 13:2-4

If there arise in your midst a prophet...and he gives you a sign or wonder, and the sign or wonder come to pass whereof he spoke to you saying: Let us go after other shall not harken to his words...for the Lord your God is putting you to proof, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

Is it fair for God to impose a test by tempting us to heed a prophet who can work impressive wonders in the world of nature, but whose message is to follow idols?  Aren't God's wonders for us in the far distant past, not directly experienced by us - unlike what a contemporary artful prophet might perform?

An answer to the fairness question is found in the next verse below.  The test is fair, because God relates to us today - as in ancient times - in a way that is loving, unique and exclusive, this justifies a test.

Deu  14:1

You are children of the Lord your God...For you are a holy people unto the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people of a select portion unto Himself out of all peoples  that are upon the face of the earth.

Does saying that we are God's children, a holy people and God's select portion mean that we are superior to other people?  Isn't this arrogant and demeaning?

One answer can be found by returning to the very first verses above, about blessings and curses.  We are subject to them depending on how well we carry out God's will.  The essence of our selection, our special relationship to God is about responsibilities, not privileges.  Having a closer relationship to God than other peoples, like a partner to a marriage, doesn't make us superior.  It does escalate the consequences of our actions - blessings and curses.

What is the point of this exercise?  I find it interesting that we can read the Torah as a series of questions.  A question in one verse can be answered by another verse, which then asks its own question to be answered by another verse - and finally the last question can be answered by the verse that asked the first question.  So we can create new connections and make a lovely chain necklace from verses of the Torah.

Finally, What is Torah?  Torah means the Scroll, and also in a larger sense, all of Jewish learning.  That larger Torah exists not only in the text.  It is also in our lives, in how we connect with other people.   There is life in our holy texts; and there is text in our holy lives.

Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav said: Two people separated by space and time can nevertheless take part in an exchange.  One asks a question and the other, elsewhere and later, asks another, unaware that his question is an answer to the first.

So let me leave you with that one thought: for any question you have, be receptive to perceiving that another person may be the answer - and also that you may be the answer to someone else's question.  Perhaps the essence of marriage, or a loving partnership, is that each partner is the answer to the other's question.  Thank you.


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