Open your heart to receive blessing
Thoughts on parashat Nitzavim-Vayelech
Human beings are religious beings. This means we have a natural tendency to develop religion or something that metaphysically deals with the problematic mystery of human existence. Every time human beings want to get rid of religion something else fills this gap and becomes a new religion. This new religion is usually a political ideology, an ideologized science or a random stream of philosophy that was accidentally popular at the time.
The problem is that what is metaphysical cannot be replaced with something physical, scientific or political. Whenever humanity tries to do so it hurts itself in the long run.
Conceaed acts concern the LORD our God; but with overt acts, it is for us and our children ever to apply all the provisions of this Teaching. (Deuteronomy 29:28)
We cannot repress or get rid of our metaphysical needs. We cannot escape from our need for transcendence. Why? Because by repressing things that concern our God
we will end up, sooner or later, in self denial and nihilism. We were created in divine likeness which means we naturally strive for the divine. Our religious drive is a drive for something holy and eternal - something that is good, something that does not pass. This eternal and good thing has to be able to mark everything we freely do and experience- mark with meaning.
To mark means to affirm, not to subject - and no science, no political ideology nor philosophy is able to fully do that. Why? because the products of human intellect are, by definition, limited. Science and philosophy can give you explanation, political ideology can give you the goal. Religion gives you meaning.
At the end of the day human intellect is there to serve, to make our lives easier, more comfortable and more predictable. Religion very often does the opposite or at least starts with the opposite. Judaism, our religion, does not unconditionally affirm our life. It affirms it deeply, but only when we bring holiness, good and justice. It affirms life with a spirit that deliberately opens itself towards unknown and concealed things
. None of these concealed things, nor holiness nor good are the notions that can be politically or scientifically defined without reducing them to fractions.
When all these things befall you—the blessing and the curse that I have set before you—and you take them to heart amidst the various nations to which the LORD your God has banished you, and you return to the LORD your God, and you and your children heed His command with all your heart and soul, just as I enjoin upon you this day, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and take you back in love. He will bring you together again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. Even if your outcasts are at the ends of the world, from there the LORD your God will gather you, from there He will fetch you. And the LORD your God will bring you to the land that your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will make you more prosperous and more numerous than your fathers. Then the LORD your God will open up your heart and the hearts of your offspring to love the LORD your God with all your heart and soul, in order that you may live. (Deuteronomy 30:1-6)
These words contain an endless, divine promise. Note, they don't make many conditions. There is only one essential: we have to return to God, to everything He revealed to us on Mount Sinai.
Everything that is concealed is known by God. During the coming High Holidays I encourage all of you to express everything that is concealed in us before Him, with our entire hearts and entire souls. If we do that He will turn His countenance towards us and will bless us with all His generosity.
Menachem Mirski- student rabinacki w Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, American Jewish University, Los Angeles, USA