Rabbi Chaim Dovid Green
Taming The Beast
I would like to continue the discussion of the verse "Sh'ma Yisroel..."
Hear Israel, Hashem or G-d is the One and Only. "And you shall love
Hashem your G-d with all of your heart..." The Torah states that we must
love G-d with all of our hearts. Our sages take note of the Hebrew
spelling of the word "heart" in this passage. There is a second and
seemingly extra letter "beis" in the word which is not the common way of
writing the word. Our sages explain that our heart in the broader sense
of the meaning, our psyches, contain two oppositional components. The
inclination to do G-d's will, and the inclination to follow our own
desires and judgments. The two components are represented by the letter
"beis" which the word is normally written with, and the second
additional letter which is found here in this verse.
Maimonides, in his enumeration of the 613 commandments of the Torah,
writes that there is a commandment to foster and cultivate our belief in
G-d. It is idiomatic that the commandments of the Torah are incumbent on
all female Jews 12 years of age and up, and on male Jews 13 years of age
and up. Rabbi Elchonon Wassserman asks how it is possible for G-d to
expect that kind of intellectual maturity from children when even great
philosophical minds could not conclusively arrive at faith in G-d. Isn't
it an unreasonable expectation?
Rabbi Wasserman writes that in fact, the opposite is true. If a person
found a watch laying on the ground in the middle of the desert, he would
naturally conclude that someone had been there. By the same token it is
easy to arrive at the conclusion that there is a transcendent power
which is behind our universe which is infinitely more complicated and
phenomenal . How then can these great minds not have arrived at this
Rabbi Wasserman explains that there is another force at work. The Torah
commands: "do not to take bribes". This is a rule which generally
applies to judges and legal matters, but it has other far-reaching
applications regarding our own judgment. The prohibition of taking
bribes applies to even Moshe and Aharon, the greatest luminaries. Why?
The reason is that bribes cloud judgment, and no one is above that. No
matter how great our depth of reasoning and righteousness may be, once a
vested interest has the opportunity to mold our agenda, it will cloud
our judgment and we will lose our objectivity, leading us to arrive at
the wrong conclusions in a given matter. For this reason we find that
many sages are recorded in the Talmud as having disqualified themselves
from judging a particular case. They may have received even an unrelated
favor from one of the plaintiffs in a legal issue, and they understood
the profound influence it had on their ability to judge reality.
This is really one of the issues we need to consider when we form our
opinions and attitudes, especially in important matters such as how we
relate to G-d. Do I want to believe? What do I lose or gain by doing so?
Rabbi Wasserman explains that this is why belief in G-d became
difficult. I would add that the hypocrisy of some spiritual leaders and
absurdity of some religious doctrines have contributed to that desire
not to believe as well. But by and large, it is the desire not to have
to be accountable. If one could remove accountability from the picture
of belief in G-d, it would be easy to conclude that there is a
transcendent force behind the universe. Now we can fully understand why
the Torah even expects children to foster their belief in The Creator.
Indeed, children have a much easier time doing so than adults.
Our job in loving G-d with all of our hearts is to recognize that there
are inner forces which pull us away from committing ourselves to that
which is for our ultimate good. We must rally both of the forces in us
around the same cause, much in the same way that a rider directs the
horse he is riding to be a vehicle of his will.
In this week's parsha, G-d directs the Children of Israel to camp in a
particular formation while they wandered in the wilderness. Each of the
twelve tribes had its own banner, and its own approach to serving G-d.
Yet the entire formation had the Tabernacle as its nucleus. Serving G-d
through meticulous study of Torah and performance of commandments was
the central focus, even if the "banner," the emphasis and approach to
G-d's service, the individuality, differed from tribe to tribe, and from
Jew to Jew.
Our G-d is the One and Only. We His people merit to share that trait
with G-d. It is achieved by loving Him with all of our hearts; by
focusing our full strength on doing what the Torah says G-d wants from
us; by understanding our divergent motivations and recognizing the
"bribes" which cloud our focus; and by using our individual strengths to
rally around the holiness that dwells in our midst.
Text Copyright © 2002 Rabbi Dovid Green and
Project Genesis, Inc.