Torah, indeed all of the Tanakh, is replete with scenarios in which everybody gets the bad end of the deal. The Israelites get thrown out of their land for their insolent ways and their sins against G”d. The enemies of Israel (and thus the enemies of G”d?) get slaughtered for having the audacity to attack G”d’s chosen people and favorite land, even though their attack was part of G”d’s punishment of Israel..
Or,worse yet, G”d causes a people to attack Israel, for the sole purpose of wiping that people utterly, They are evil for attacking G”d’s people, but it was G”d who caused them to attack! What at Catch-22.
Gog and Magog. Pawns in G”d’s plan, to be utterly wiped out for daring to try and destroy G”d’s chosen people. Such a lovely haftarah we read.
To top it off, all of it is for really questionable reasons. Maybe G”d has failed to read Qoholet, for G”d is looking pretty vain.
“Must punish My people for profaning my name and failing to heed my commandments.” “Makes Me look bad to the rest of the world if I don’t punish them, and makes me look weak to My own people.” “Must punish the people who dare to attack and threaten My people, or it will make Me look bad to the rest of the world (and to My own people? But wait, isn’t this a logistical inconsistency?)” “Hmmm. Maybe I should make these people attack my people, and then wipe them out as an example to others. What a great idea!”
Seems G”d wants to have the cake and eat it too. Well, isn’t this something G”d should be able to do? Let’s not go there today.
G”d, apparently, has not heard of or learned about the model of “positive discipline.” G”d, it seems, is into punishing everybody, and then prone to bouts of “this hurts me more than it hurts you” and Divine “guilt.” G”d is not above laying waste to a people just to make a point. Sigh.
You, Master of the Universe, set up the system. You set the bar impossibly high with the certain knowledge that your creations would consistently fail in reaching it. What a Sisyphean universe You’ve given us.
You created all mankind, yet You fail to learn from the stories of Yitzchak, Esav and Yaakov, and Yaakov and his own sons, and You show favoritism upon only one people? You treat those favored people like crap anyway, because they are constantly failing to live up to Your standard.
Let me ask you a question, G”d. Why didn’t you send us a warrior messiah? Do You like inflicting punishment upon us, Your chosen people, and upon the other nations who dare challenge us? There are times when You truly appear sick, twisted, and sadistic. Agreed, there are times when You appear loving, though You must admit that many of those times the loving is a promise for the future rather than a present reality.
My idea of love, G”d, is not You beating our enemies up (or beating us up for that matter.) The classic Jewish apologetics speak of a covenantal love. They teach us that G”d’s love appears in the love that we show for each other, and for G”d. It appears in our just deeds, our love and caring for others. This the Jewish answer to Christians who ignorantly describe their religion as being about the G”d of Love” whereas Judaism is about the “G”d of Law.”
I’m not tempted by the fact the Christianity claims to be all about a “G”d of Love.” I’m quite happy being Jewish. However, I just don’t think we’ve done well in explaining how G”d continues to show G”d’s Love for us. We tend to rely on historical examples, most especially the Exodus.
Miracles abound. I don’t doubt that. I experience them every day when I allow myself to sense, experience, and do love, blessing, loving kindness, justice, compassion, and so much more. These are, surely, examples of G”d ‘s love.
The Judaism of my understanding teaches me to show my love for G”d in all that I do. I show it in how I act and behave and think and do. In these acts, I should sense G”d’s love for me. It’s not that simple. Judaism doesn’t offer the simple faith of “Jesus loves me this I know, ‘cause the Bible tells me so.” That’s too simple, too easy for me. It makes me want to shout “where’s the beef?” As a Jew I am taught to respect the Torah, but also to question it.
That’s what I’m doing now. I’m showing my love for G”d by questioning G”d. Maybe, just ,maybe, it might be enough for me to know that G”d’s love for me is expressed in the mere fact that I can, that I am practically expected, to question G”d. What greater expression of love could there be?
So this Shabbat, I’m gonna show my deep and abiding love for G”d by doing the thing I sometimes think I do best – asking questions of G”d, questioning G”d’s actions as told to us through our sacred texts, and as experienced through our own history. Answers may come…or not. It’s the questioning that matters.
Ad*nai loves me, this I question,
‘cause the Torah (gives me that impression? gives me indigestion? makes that concession? tells of our freedom from oppression? is our prized possession?
Shabbat Shalom and Moadim L’Simkha,
©2014 by Adrian A. Durlester
Other musings on this parasha:
Hol HaMoeid Sukkot 5774 - Godot is Waiting for the Bald Soprano at the Zoo
Sukkot III 5772 - Fragility
Sukkot I 5770 - Fire and Rain
Sukkot 5767-Precious Congealed Light - Or Y'kator V'kipa'on
Sukkot 5764--Bayom Hazeh
Sukkot 5763--Sukkot Time Travel