Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Remembrance, humility, and connection

From "Because I Said So":
.... Moses offers three critical ways to address the challenge of trusting in the divine: remembrance, humility, and connection. This nuanced understanding points to critical engagement as the foundation of obedience.

Let’s start with remembrance. Humans tend to have a short memory. We see this powerfully illustrated with the incident of the golden calf. Shortly after God commanded the people not to have other gods and not to make idols, the Israelites did both. So Moses spends a significant chunk of this Torah portion reviewing the miracles and lessons of the past, including the incident of the calf. He begins: “Remember the long way the Lord, your God, led you these 40 years in the desert, in order to afflict you, to test you, to know what is in your heart, whether you would keep God’s commandments or not.” (Deuteronomy 8:2). He wants the Israelites to remember the miraculous way they were cared for by God in the past, but also the mistakes that were made along the way.

Recalling this history might lead the Israelites to take their success for granted and assume that divine favor is assured. This is why Moses cautions the Israelites to practice humility. “Do not say in your heart, ‘Because of my righteousness, the Lord has brought me to possess this land, and because of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord drives them out from before you.’” (Deuteronomy 9:4) Moses here is speaking to the human tendency to attribute success to our own righteousness and to believe there is some deficit in those who do not succeed as we do. A stance of humility, the recognition that there is something beyond our own power, some cosmic alignment responsible for what we achieve (or fail to), is a preventative to succumbing to the arrogance of success.

Finally, we come to the heart of Moses’ teaching, his encouragement of the Israelites to stay close to the source of blessing: “You shall love the Lord, your God, keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments, all the days.” (Deuteronomy 11:1) This may be the most challenging aspect for us today — to act based on an ongoing personal connection with the divine. To help hone this skill, Moses issues a curious command to “circumcise the foreskin of your heart” (Deuteronomy 10:16). ....

The three levels of trust-building Moses describes bring the Israelites — and us — from “because I said so” to a greater understanding of why we should do so. .... (more)
Rabbi Tiferet Berenbaum, "Because I Said So," My Jewish Learning, August 5, 2023

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