Adrian A. Durlester

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Random Musings Before Shabbat- Matot/Masey 5762

I'm just returning home from a family visit to the baked apple (and it truly was the baked apple these past few days.) Forgive me, if, in the rush of preparations for Shabbat, I grace you with a duo of previous musings for parashat Matot/Masey, from 5758 and 5760.

Random Musings Before Shabbat for Matot/Masey - 5760 - The Rebel's Complaint

When the readings from the prophets to accompany each Torah parasha were determined, Matot/Masey were assigned accompanying readings from Jeremiah. The Haftarah for Matot starts with the beginning of Jeremiah, and the Haftarah for Masey picks up where the Haftarah for Matot ends, at 2:4. It runs through 2:28 and then skips to 3:4 (4: in Sephardi ritual.) There's lots of great text in these readings, but I wish it had been decided to include 2:29, for I find it a most powerful statement that speaks well to what precedes it:

2:29 "'Lama tarivu eylai, kulkhem p'shatem bi?' - n'um Adnai"

"'Why do you call Me to account, you who have rebelled against me?' - says Adnai." (JPS)

Why indeed? Look at this world. Look at it. Take a good look. A hard look. Torn by violence and pain. Full of deception and lies. Neighbor oppresses neighbor. Widows and orphans go wanting.

Some ask "How can there be a Gd if all this is befalling us?" We want to place the blame anywhere but on ourselves. Yet, as our holy texts constantly tell us, we are not free of blame. Jeremiah 1:1-2:28 is a grand indictment of Israel, for forsaking Gd.

The text of Jeremiah makes it plain in 2:23 (and it is no less true today then when these words were first preached):

2:23 "Eych tom'ri: lo nitmeyti"

"How can you say: 'I am not defiled' ?" (JPS)

How, indeed can we say that? We have done no better than our ancestors, of whom Gd said:

2:5 "What wrong did your ancestors find in Me, that they moved away from Me, and went after empty things, and themselves became empty?"

It's time for us to stop blaming Gd, and finding fault in Gd for the imperfections of our world. We have only ourselves to blame. And only ourselves to fix things, and be restored to Gd's favor. Then we can refill ourselves not with emptiness, but with love, compassion, charity, righteousness. Even if you can't believe in Gd anymore, it sure couldn't hurt to help with tikkun olam, if not for Gd's sake, then for Israel's and all humankind's sakes.

This Shabbat, take time to fill yourselves from the deepest and most refreshing well of all.

Shabbat Shalom,


©  2000 by Adrian A. Durlester

Read on for a recycling of my musing "Promises, Promises."

Random Musings Before Shabbat-Matot/Masey 5758

Promises, Promises

Our Promises. We have to keep them. It's as simple as that. It says so plainly in Bamidbar 30:3.

It's so easy to make a pledge, a promise, an oath. We want to do things for others, we want to do things for ourselves, we want to change things in our lives. We vow to be better people, to go to shul more often, to study Torah more often. And so on.

But we cannot do it all. So often we make pledges we can't keep, because we have set unreasonable expectations for ourselves. And then we start making excuses. We didn't have time, it was too much work, someone else didn't do their part, etc. Or we figure we'll just add to our list for Yom Kippur.

But Torah doesn't give us an out. It doesn't say "you must carry out all that has crossed your lips- but if you don't, sacrifice 3 bulls and burn incense for five days" or something like that. There ain't no excuse. No way to make up for it.

Yet other parts of Torah are full of instructions on what to do when you do something wrong. Why not here?

I wonder what Gd expects us to do when we don't keep an oath, a promise, a pledge?

Well, that might be the wrong way to look at it. The injunction here is-don't make the promise if you doubt you can keep it. "But," I can hear you say, "what if I had every intention of keeping it but so and so did this and that and...." Doesn't that count?

We'd sure like to think so. And Gd is compassionate. But it is not Gd who must deal with the result of your broken promise-it is you.

"This is an impossible task," you say. I agree. I make an effort, a lot of the time, to not promise more than I can do. But I often fail.

What can one realistically do? Well, recently I made a few promises to do extra things. A few of them I was able to keep-and I felt really good about those. And the people to whom I had promised things were delighted. One or two I didn't keep. In both instances, I went to the people affected and, instead of making excuses, simply admitted "I was wrong to promise you I could do this. I did not keep my word." No other explanation. No "I was too busy doing..." or "the boss asked me to do this extra thing..."

That, I think, is the best one can do, short of the ultimate goal of never making promises one does not keep. We should at least try, a little more every day, to think carefully before we make a promise-and slowly we will reel in our propensities to offer more than we can deliver. The goal must be to eventually be able to keep the commandment fully-to allows make good on a pledge. Even if we never achieve it, we can be comfortable in the knowledge that we are making the effort.

There is no "out," no excuse, no expiation for failing to observe this mitzvah. And deliberately so. For I think it was Gd's goal to get us to keep pushing to get it right. If we had an "out" we might not try so hard.

So, make yourself a promise-to work on observing the mitzvah of always fulfilling the obligations that pass your lips. There's one promise you'll want to keep, for the rewards are unimaginable.

Chazak, chazak, v'nitchazek.

I wish you all a joyous and warm Shabbat Shalom.


© 1998 by Adrian A. Durlester


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