1. Deuteronomy: Eikev

This is the third parsha in Deuteronomy and the first I’ve written on (remember the vacation).  But it is not the first I’ve read.  And I feel disturbed.  Very disturbed.  There’s been a lot of re-hash and I’m hearing a new voice.  Reminders of where the Israelites have been and what has occurred so far on Moses’ and the Israelites’ journey.  This new voice is recalling how we got where we are and what it cost.

And on top of that, I just read a couple of articles in The Forward about Chelsea Clinton’s marriage yesterday (yes, on the sabbath) to a Jewish man.  Then came the comments after the article.  Then an article about Israel’s rejection of marriage performed between any two people not considered Jews in the eyes of the Israeli Rabbinate.

Disturbed and sad.  I love being a Jew, and I will process this and it will feel better once I do.  But for now, I read what the fundamentalists read.  There is one way, only one way, to be deserving.  And that is to be an Israelite and follow God’s commandments.  If not, if you belong to a group that stands within Israel, or between the Israelites and Israel, you will be killed so that the Israelites can secure the land of Israel for themselves.  And if you don’t follow the commandments, as interpreted by this group or that group, then you are not a good Jew, or a deserving human being, or, to read some of the comments in The Forward, not worthy of much of anything.

There is a bumper sticker that says that all war is fought over religion, so if you eliminate religion you will eliminate war.  The bumper sticker is much more pithy about it, but that is the gist.  And if you read the Torah, it does seem to be true, at least fundamentally.  Lots and lots of people died so that the Israelites could have the land they were promised.

So I’m left with a dilemma.  We all are.  What do we look at literally?  We can’t all have everything that we want no matter what.  The fundamentalists can’t have a world that is as it was hundreds or thousands of years ago.  We can’t live on land that someone else is living on and call it our own without sharing it.  No one has a right to walk into another person’s home, life, world and tell them that they are doing it wrong therefore they don’t deserve…..whatever.

So we have to look at Torah in some way other than literally.  It is not a blueprint for life today….it can’t be.  Maybe much of the havoc and devastation that mankind has wrought on our world and its people is as a result of reading Torah a bit too literally.  Maybe it’s time to be inclusive and not exclusive.  Maybe it’s time to love more and allow each and every one of us to follow his or her own path, so long as that path does not desecrate another.

Maybe it’s time to stop being so RIGHT all the time and spend more time wondering how we can each be better tomorrow than we were today.

Thanks God, for kicking my ass.

1. Numbers: Shelah-Lekah

God has a hissy fit.  The Israelites have lost faith, yet again, in themselves, in God, in Israel.  And God is pissed.  Moses convinces God not to kill all of the Israelites (and he creates a remarkably good argument…it’s worth reading).  At first, this seemed like the sum total of the parsha, so I went online to see what others think.  There’s always so much more to Torah than I can read on my own.  I need to spend more time at Torah study…this does truly need to be turned over and over.

There’s an awful lot to chew on.  “First do, then believe”.  There’s a saying I use with my kids:  “fake it till you make it”.  It’s an AA saying I think.  As much as we think we know everything, we don’t.  Whether you believe in God or don’t, sometimes faith is required just to get through the day.  Faith and preparation.

I’m dealing with this daily right now.  It was scary to quit my job, especially in this impossible economy.  But the job wasn’t working with my life, so here I am.  My faith in myself told me I could make this work.  But faith alone won’t get it done.  Doing the preparation: making phone calls, marketing myself like mad, sending emails daily, looking for excuses to connect with people in my business.  Faith is great, but if I just sat around having faith that a job would fall into my lap, most likely no job would ever fall into my lap.  I have to do the work, prepare.  Do and then believe.  The two together make up faith, but doing has to come first.

The Israelite spies looked at the big picture and freaked out.  They were paralyzed and couldn’t “do”, so they lost faith.  When I look around, I see this everywhere.  Sometimes the job is too big, but paralysis is never the answer.  Baby steps are the answer.  Do and then believe.  That is faith.

That’s why God wants us to wear tzitzit I think.  It’s a reminder to do.

those brilliant Israelis

I design restaurants for a living.  Pretty fun business.  Someone in my office sent around a couple of videos today about the technological savvy of the Israelis.  A company in Israel has developed a restaurant ordering computer system that is tableside and makes servers irrelevant for order taking.  Brilliant.  And he sent this video about all of the technology advances that Israeli companies are behind.  Where most kibbutz were agricultural decades ago, now they are technology think tanks.  Pretty interesting stuff.