Ah, the rampant co-dependent behaviors we find so often in the Torah. This Shabbat, we are even treated to two sides of the same co-dependency.
It's a story we've heard before. "How will it look if..." Why do we worry so much about what others will think? Well, we don't have much choice-it's part of our makeup. For if we are b'tzelem Elokim, then Gd is reflected in us. And if we are to believe what we read in our sacred texts, it does seem to matter to Gd what others will think.
Moshe was able to convince to Gd temper anger, and remain with the people, but subtly asking "How will it look if...you brought us out of Egypt only to abandon us in the wilderness?"
Speaking for Gd is parashat Ha'azinu, Moshe intimates that Gd is again worried about "How will it look if..." In 32:26-27 we read:
I might have reduced them to naught Made their memory cease among men, But for fear of the taunts of the foe, Their enemies who might misjudge And say "Our own hand has prevailed; None of this was wrought by the Lrd. (JPS)
Here's Gd worrying about appearances again. True, Gd is also worrying that the right message be understood by Israel's enemies, however, it's still Gd worrying about what others might think of what Gd is doing. "How will it look if..."
Then, in our special Haftarot for Shabbat Shuva, the Prophet Joel says"
17: Between the portico and the altar Let the priests, the Lrd's ministers, weep And say: "Oh spare Your people, Lrd! Let not Your possession become a mockery, To be taunted by nations! Let not the peoples say, 'Where is their Gd?' "
Ya gotta help us Gd, or you're gonna look bad! These words, spoken by a prophet, surely tell us that it is Israel's experience the Gd responds to such cries. Gd responds to "How will it look if..."
And Gd does indeed respond. As we read:
18: The Lrd was roused on behalf of His [sic] land And had compassion Upon His [sic] people.
Yet, at times, if seems as if Gd has stopped responding, stopped caring about "How it will look if..."
Well, here's yet another possible explanation for Gd's apparent absence--detachment! Harking bark to those tried and true concepts of twelve step programs, which, as we all have discovered by now in my musings, is no new science, but one clearly elaborated in Torah.
Gd tried and tried to get us to change, to do better, to follow Gd's mitzvot. Gd sent us leaders, judges, prophets, Kings, signs and portents. Gd perhaps even sent us a daughter religion which outstripped us in popularity in order to rouse us into action. But no, we have not learned, this stiff-necked, stubborn and obstinate people known as Israel.
One of the trait behaviors of addictions of all kinds-whether it be alcoholism, overeating, co-dependency, etc. is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. The co-dependent spouse keeps covering up and enabling the addicted spouse. Just as Gd keeps forgiving us, letting our iniquities slide. And what's the cure? Detachment in love. To stop enabling the bad behaviors of the other.
I think it's an interesting, even eloquent explanation for Gd's apparent absence, that perhaps Gd is practicing "detachment" and "tough love."
So, maybe the lesson to be learned this Shabbat Shuva, is that, if we truly want to repent, and return to Gd (and have Gd return to us) we need to learn that, like Gd, we can learn from the lessons of the past and not repeat the same mistakes. Gd no longer worries about "How will it look if..." and we also should not worry about it.
So often, we contemporary liberal Jews are so worried about "How it will look if..." We assimilate, we hide, ignore and eschew our rich ritual heritage. "How will it look...if I wear an kippah and all my friends don't?" "How will it look if the way we worship is different from the way our neighbors worship?" "How will it look if everybody eats barbequed pork ribs or shrimp except me?"
I posit that Gd has tired of that weary refrain, and that, for the sake of t'shuva, we should part with it as well. Eliminate it from our vocabularies. No more shall we cry "How will it look if..." Rather, let us proclaim "Shelo asanu k'goyei ha'aratzot, v'lo samanu k'mishpachot ha'adamah." Let us walk proudly as Jews, as who and what we are, reminding all the world that "Adnai Echad." How will it look if...we do that? Like the messianic age.
Shabbat Shalom and G'mar chatima tovah
©2002, 2004 by Adrian A. Durlester
Some previous musings on the same parasha
Ha'azinu 5762 -
Ha'azinu 5760 - Bull From Our Lips
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