by David Medzon
Shalom Uvracha, Shana Tova.
I hope you and your families are all keeping well and staying safe.
While "repentance" is indeed a part of the process
of gaining forgiveness, we Jews are instructed to perform Tshuvah...
It is a personal returning. A personal responsibility.
It's also a collective returning, a collective responsibility of the
community of Israel.
Return... from what to what? from where to where?
Return... How? When?
We know when, everyday!
It is part of our daily prayer service.
Every New Moon we have payers of tshuvah, every Holiday...
coinciding with the set times of Temple sacrifice.
And of course... right now in this set time,
Yomim Noraim, the Days of Awe,
when our tradition teaches us that the gates of mercy and
compassion are opened fully.
This is the time, as imagined by Schneur Zalman of Liadi,
when, "The King is In the Field".
G-d is not on high, watching from a distance.
G-d is waiting for us.
(With eternal patience)
Right here. Right now!
How we get there is another matter!
And I would like to present an idea.
The relationship that each of us has with HaShem,
no matter how we worship, how much Torah we know,
how we have been taught or taught ourselves,
it comes down to a relationship of mutual TRUST.
G-d made a promise to Avraham that his descendants,
"will be a great and numerous nation."
One that is blessed, such that the other nations will be blessed by them.
G-d gave US the Torah as a covenant, sealing our destiny as THE people
who, (unanimously), accepted the yoke of Torah at the foot of Mt. Sinai..
In Parshat Vayikra (Leviticus) G-d speaks to us:
I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be My people.
בי םֶ֖כָל יִתיִ֥יָהְו םֶ֔כְכוֹ֣תְבּ ֙יִתְּכַלַּהְתִהְו
:םָֽעְל יִ֥ל־וּיְהִֽתּ םֶ֖תַּאְו םיִ֑ה:אֵֽל
Beautiful but also frightening!
In so few words we understand that this relationship is not going to be
" I will be your God and you will be My people."
This relationship is not sealed. This is not a done deal.
By saying "will be" we understand that the promise is not complete.
Wouldn't it be more comforting to hear,
"I am walking among you, I am your G-d and you are My people"?
Definitive. Unconditional. Comforting, like a loving parent.
Tell me, What is the longest lasting contract we will ever sign in our lives?
Car lease? Mortgage? The wedding contract?
Wedding contracts regularly quote the words of King Solomon's
"Song of Songs" which reads:
"Ani l'dodi v'dodi li"
“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine,” (Shir HaShirim).
I am yours, you are mine. Beautiful. Romantic.
I imagine the newlyweds, walking hand in hand with complete confidence in each other.
Triumphant and Happy in the promise each has made.
"I am yours, you are mine."
Imagine now, changing the words,
"I will be my beloved's and my beloved will be mine."
"I will be yours and you will be mine."
Ominous. Mysterious. Puzzling. When is this going to happen?
What are the conditions that will set this in motion?
And Where are the newlyweds now?
The groom took a jet to Las Vegas and the bride is on a cruise to Cabo.!
Something is missing.
There is something that needs to bind this deal.
Something powerful enough that changes this future tense,
"I will", into the present, "I am".
(And) this binding agent is TRUST.
So, this is the deal!:
G-d, the source of all, the source of truth, justice, love and forgiveness
stands firm trusting us to use our freewill to put our trust in G-d.
In each and every moment we do so, when we choose to trust HaShem,
the future conditional "I will be" turns into the present "I am."
From "I will walk among you" to "I am walking among you,"
From "I will be your G-d" to "I am your G-d"
From "you will be my people" to "you are My people".
Let us invite G-d into the present.
The King is in the field.
Let us go meet the King.
The story we read today, the Akeida, the Binding of Isaac, is a terrifying story revealing how trust, on G-d's end, is measured. Avraham is tested, ...Trust must be earned.
The Rambam / Maimonides, the great medieval scholar and physician and others,
teach us that the Akeida is the final of 10 tests for Avraham.
Avraham needs to gain his credentials, earn his diploma if you will,
before he can be called the Father of the Jewish people.
Is it not true in our society?
We trust the doctor who has gained the credential from the College of Physicians & Surgeons.
The lawyer must pass the bar.
Teachers, scientists, historians, technologists, engineers, accountants, rabbis... all must obtain their respective credentials, and then we trust them as professionals in what they do.
But... how deep does our trust go?
Should we not approach even accredited professionals with a little skepticism?
Surely we have the right for a second opinion!?
When searching for a new dentist, a contractor, a new restaurant... do we not ask for referrals?
Who here has not searched the internet for reviews before they venture for a night out?
"Honey, What's the restaurant we're going to tonight!
"I don't know, but it's rated 4 stars."
And even then, will a 4 or 5 star rated restaurant truly be as good as we expect? Will it meet our standards? And if it did meet expectations the first time, will it continue to do so the next visit? Maybe the menu changed? Maybe our taste changed? Trust is subjective. It changes with each experience we have. The psalms read: (ps.146) "Al tichtivu binvidim b'vein adam she'ayn lo tshua" "Do not rely on nobles or on a human being for he holds no salvation." People are not always reliable. Even when they are acting with the best intentions. Personal experience teaches us that there is always some measure doubt. (Is this not so?)
But Avraham was not afforded a second opinion. Avraham was challenged in a way that no one ever should be tested. So how did Avraham pass this ultimate test? To lay his son, the only son of his life partner Sarah, born in their old age, bind him on a bed of wood... and lift a knife... ready to slay him. How does one trust so deeply, so profoundly, that all reason is suspended? Where filial love is nullified and supplanted with the love for G-d? Where murder becomes an act of devotion? I can only think of one thing that can carry us across that chasm, that vast sea to reach the shore of complete trust.
And that is Knowledge of the TRUTH. Not belief.
Beyond the pitch and yaw of belief. Not love.
Beyond the capricious waves of love. Knowledge.
Knowing. Knowing what is true. Big "T" Truth.
Objective and absolute.
Ultimate and eternal. Unchanging and Steadfast.
This is knowing G-d. The knowledge of Truth. This is what Avraham had. The first of our ancestors. This is why we venerate his life and draw on his merit to be as our own. An Ultimate Trust, such as that of Avraham, can only be formed where there is an Ultimate Truth. One cannot trust in something that is not true (in itself). Otherwise we are fooling ourselves. This is what these Days of Awe are all about. Our challenge, here and now, is to re-establish and re-strengthen that bond of trust with the Ultimate Truth. And I say re-establish and re-strengthen because this bond is our birthright. We are the descendants of Avraham and Sarah. This bond (with the Ultimate Truth) is our inheritance. The closing prayer of every service, the Aleinu, borrows from the book of Dvarim, 39And you shall know this day and consider it in your heart, that the Lord He is God in heaven above, and upon the earth below; there is none else.
לט וְיָֽדַעְתָּ֣ הַיּ֗וֹם וַֽהֲשֵֽׁבֹתָ֘ אֶל־לְבָבֶ֒ךָ֒ כִּ֤י יְהֹוָה֙ ה֣וּא הָֽאֱלֹהִ֔ים
בַּשָּׁמַ֣יִם מִמַּ֔עַל וְעַל־הָאָ֖רֶץ מִתָּ֑חַת אֵ֖ין עֽוֹד:
(Deut. 4:39) The word "v'hasheivota" here translated as "consider" comes from the same root as Tshuvah: "Shuv". "Return." Let me rephrase it: And you shall know this day and return it in your heart, that the Lord He is God in heaven above, and upon the earth below; there is none else." Return it in your heart. Know it. Part lll How do we get there? How do we Return it in our hearts. How do we Know it. Is there an app for this? How do we return to G-d? How do we put our complete our trust in G-d? How do we emulate Avraham and bind ourselves to the Ultimate Truth? In the 3rd Cent. BCE, Archimedes discovered that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Naturally, let us point ourselves in the direction of Truth, and set forth! But which way, which direction? About one hundred years before Archimedes, the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu wrote, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step". Let us take this "one step", together, here and now. The Torah teaches us of another great Jewish leader, Moshe Rabeinu. Recall the story of the bush that burned without being consumed.
The Torah reads, So Moses said, "Let me turn now and see this great spectacle why does the
thorn bush not burn up?" :
ג וַיֹּ֣אמֶר משֶׁ֔ה אָסֻֽרָה־נָּ֣א וְאֶרְאֶ֔ה אֶת־הַמַּרְאֶ֥ה הַגָּדֹ֖ל הַזֶּ֑ה
מַדּ֖וּעַ לֹֽא־יִבְעַ֥ר הַסְּנֶֽה:
For Moses, this was the "one step."
To turn and inspect what he thought could not be true.
The Torah continues:
The Lord saw that he had turned to
see, and God called to him from within
the thorn bush, and He said, "Moses,
Moses!" And he said, "Here I am!"
ד וַיַּ֥רְא יְהֹוָ֖ה כִּ֣י סָ֣ר לִרְא֑וֹת וַיִּקְרָא֩ אֵלָ֨יו אֱלֹהִ֜ים מִתּ֣וֹךְ
הַסְּנֶ֗ה וַיֹּ֛אמֶר משֶׁ֥ה משֶׁ֖ה וַיֹּ֥אמֶר הִנֵּֽנִי: