There's a lot to consider. All the words spoken to the people by Moshe, not just in the song the comprises Ha'azinu, but in the entire discourse of D'varim. Indeed, in all of Torah.
Things we should do. Things we shouldn't do. Things we must always do, and things we must never do. (It's interesting how the Hebrew language has grammatical forms- "lo" and "al-" that allow one to express a "do not" and an emphatic "absolutely do not." I wonder what we are to make of that? Are some negative mitzvot more important? Also, oddly enough, while one might think the black and white things, the absolute yes's and no's, would be easier to deal with, that's not always the case.)
So, do the less emphatic yes's and no's become less important? Are we free to pick and choose from among the less emphatic commandments which ones to observe, but not free to do the same with the absolute ones (like the Aseret Hadibrot?) Liberal Judaism embraces the "informed choice" concept. It often becomes in practice, unfortunately, the "we don't have to" concept.
And that's just not good enough. (I don't want to debate the relative merits of liberal informed choice versus traditional adherence-that's not my point today.)
We are told something very important in D'varim 32:47, after Moshe reminds the people to heed the words he has spoken:
"This is no trifling matter for you, it is your very life."
So, for the liberal Jew, it's not simply a matter of saying "that's too inconvenient and not relevant, I hereby discard it utterly." And for the traditional Jew, it's not simply a matter of saying "that's exactly what it says, so that's what I must exactly do." Either of those choices trivializes the words and their meanings.
The words of Torah are no trifles, they are pearls. Let us value them. We may each find a different meaning in them, but when we dig no deeper than a superficial reading, we haven't really found anything at all.
Time to start digging deeper. This Shabbat, grab those literary and intellectual shovels and start.
©2001 by Adrian A. Durlester
Email Me A Comment!