G-d: Yours to Discover

by Rabbi Mordechai Rhine

Of all the Parshiyos in the Torah, it could well be argued that Yisro is the most important Parsha. In it Hashem communicates the foundation of His relationship with the Jewish people.

In preparation of the great Revelation at Sinai Hashem directs Moshe to share a preamble, a statement of intent regarding religion. Hashem said, “You saw how I rescued you lovingly from Egypt. Observe My covenant; be My treasure.”

There is much to be learned from the lives of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs of our people. There is much to be learned from the laws and wisdom of the upcoming Parshiyos. But the founding principle of Torah is that Hashem loves us, and he wants us to be proud of that relationship and to uphold it.

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan tells a story of a delivery boy who shows up at a synagogue and somehow the Rabbi engages him in conversation and realizes that the young man is Jewish. When the Rabbi invites him to come more often and to participate, the young man responds, “No, I am an atheist.” The Rabbi thinks for a moment and then replies, “You know… I am also an atheist.” The Rabbi continued, “The same G-d you don’t believe in, I don’t believe in either.”

You see, there is a G-d that man created. Man has certain expectations of G-d according to Man’s perception. Sometimes Man thinks that G-d is supposed to be like Santa. G-d is supposed to simply be dispensing candies to young and old. If we do not perceive that He is dispensing candies to our liking then we become angry or in denial of His existence. Other times, Man becomes very “religious” in his thinking of G-d, thinking of Him as some very demanding being whom we had better obey. Both of these approaches are wrong, The verses are very clear. The purpose of religion is an expression of Hashem’s love. The goal is to become royalty and to develop a relationship with Him.

Sometimes we are very hard on ourselves in the name of religion. We think that if we focus on all of our shortcomings, then we are somehow being very religious. In true Torah Judaism we call this behavior, “The Yetzer Horah (Evil Inclination) with a long white beard”. As we bash ourselves with self criticism we think we are obeying the directives of saintliness. In reality this is not the way of Torah Judaism. If you wish to experience authentic Mussar (ethical growth) say the following, “Hashem loves me… Hashem loves me… Hashem loves me. What can I do to enhance my relationship with Him?”

Our Rabbis expressed this idea in a most beautiful way. They spoke of two people walking into the study hall. Recognizing that there is so much to study, they each express themselves. “The foolish one says, there are so many chapters to study, how will I ever be able to…” The wise one says, “I will study two laws today, and two laws tomorrow, until eventually…”

I believe that many people would have identified the first person as the saintly one. He is dripping with religiosity and in his awareness of how much there is to do, and how small and inept he is to meet the challenge. Yet, our Rabbis call him the fool. Hashem didn’t come to be difficult with us. He didn’t come to make us feel inept. Hashem came to us because he loves us and wants us to become all we can be. Start from wherever he placed you to start on your journey, and do “two laws today, and two laws tomorrow.”

Hashem’s hero is not the one who is dripping with religiosity about his shortcomings. Hashem’s hero is the one who recognizes His love and asks, “How can I improve?”

One might ask, “But sometimes Hashem gets angry with us, doesn’t he?” Indeed, sometimes He does. But that anger is the result of His intense love for us. Let me explain.

Picture a father who loves his son very much. So much does he love his son that he buys his son a car. As he hands over the keys, he says, “Son, there are just a few things you need to be really careful about with this car so that it doesn’t break. One thing is you must only put unleaded gasoline into the gas tank. Never put in apple juice, even if it is cheaper. It will ruin the car. And another thing,” the father says, as he pops the hood open. “Do you see this engine, here, under the hood? This is the part that does the combustion to provide energy for the car. It is a very important part of the car and must be used in just the right way. Please, never, ever, don’t ever put dynamite into this most private of places.”

Now the son takes the car for a drive. Imagine what would happen if the son does not heed his father’s words. Instead of unleaded gasoline he puts in apple juice. And then he does the unthinkable. Underneath the hood, in that most private of places, he places a few sticks of dynamite, ignites them, and ruins the car.

What emotion do you think would best describe the father when he finds out that the child did not listen to him? His son did not treasure the gift. Instead destroyed it. I think it is fair to say that he would be disappointed, sad, and perhaps even angry. That is, so to speak, how Hashem feels if we were to destroy the great gift that he gave us, the gift of love, the gift of our Nishama. In fact the greater the love in a relationship, the greater is the pain when that relationship is violated.

Some people think that religion is so very lofty and far out that it needs to be created. But the Torah tells us, “It is close.” Daily living is full of relationships so that we can begin to appreciate the great relationship that Hashem wants to have with us. As we grow we need not bash ourselves and list off all our shortcomings. Instead say three times, “Hashem loves me.” Then ask, “What must I do to enhance my relationship with Him?” Because there is much we can learn from the lives of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs of the Jewish people. And there is much to be learned from the mitzvos and from the stories of Moshe and the Jewish people in the desert. But the preamble to it all is the statement that Hashem loves us. He wants us to treasure that relationship, become nobility, and be a treasured nation. G-d is not an abstract concept that man needs to create. G-d is real; He is yours to discover.

© 2015 by TEACH613™