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Haazinu: God As The Divine Parent of Us All September 22, 2018

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

י יִמְצָאֵהוּ בְּאֶרֶץ מִדְבָּר  וּבְתֹהוּ יְלֵל יְשִׁמֹן יְסֹבְבֶנְהוּ יְבוֹנְנֵהוּ יִצְּרֶנְהוּ כְּאִישׁוֹן עֵינו

“He found him in a desert region, In an empty howling waste. He engirded him, watch over him, Guarded him as the pupil of His eye.” (Devarim 32:10)
The holiday of Sukkot draws Israel to repent in love and joy. Of this it is said: Love covers over all sins” (Prov. 10:12) That is the sukkah, which shields Israel. Of this, Scripture says: “Many waters cannot douse love” (Song of Songs 8:7). Israel’s love for God remains forever in their hearts. It is only sin that hides the love, so on these days [When sin has been forgiven]it is revealed.…
My grandfather always used to say that there is a point within each Jew’s heart that God protects. In this way He is [the] “shield of Abraham.” This is the point of love, the love that many waters cannot douse.
This holiday of Sukkot is like the tabernacle [mishkan]; it, too, was a dwelling given to the children of Israel after they had repented of their sin [of the Golden Calf]. Rashi interprets “Moses assembled the people” (Exodus 35:1) to have taken place on the day after Yom Kippur, when he came down from the mountain and God had joyously been appeased by the children of Israel. It was then that they began to contribute to the tabernacle, on those days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot. Since it says, “each morning” (Exodus 36:3), one gets the impression that it was only a few days. In the joyous giving for the tabernacle, preparation was made for this “season of our joy” each year. The Midrash quotes, “He loves them freewillingly” (Hosea 14:5) to show that the freely willed and joyous giving for the building of the tabernacle awakened love between Israel and their Father in Heaven. [Sefat Emet, Rabbi Yehuda Leib Alter of Ger, 5:203f translation by Rabbi Arthur Green}
The love of God is ever present in the hearts of all Israel. We would have to expand this to say, “all humanity.” There is no human being who is not capable of gratitude to the Source of Life for the gifts that he or she has been given. But that which “covers” love, which makes it difficult for us to reach or express that deeply natural feeling, seems more complicated. “Sin” and especially the guilt we feel in response to sin, is certainly an important factor. But in our time anger is a factor as well. We Jews are still struggling and learning to “forgive” God for the Holocaust (as though it were God who needs forgiveness!). Doubt also keeps us from expressing our love of God. But perhaps more than all else it is our fear of vulnerability that makes us hide our love of God. “Do I want to get involved?” “Do I want to take the risks of love?” Loving God in that sense is like any love: dangerous, demanding; having us open to hurt.
The difference is our faith that God is always there, present even to heal the heart that breaks for love of God. [The Language of Truth; Rabbi Arthur Green; Jewish Publication Society, p.365]
Think About It:
1.       How can a structure like the sukkah, with a flimsy roof, be a sign of God’s love? How is building a sukkah during the days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, as sign of our love of God?
2.       According to Rabbi Green, why do we have a hard time loving God? Why is such love easier during these days between the holidays?
3.       What do we “risk” when we love God? How does God “mitigate” this risk for us?
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev was in the synagogue early one morning for Shacharit and he listened to the prayers of the merchants who had arrived early. Their prayer sounded like the babbling of a baby. The Rabbi was very angry and called the merchants into his study. The Rabbi started by babbling at them like a baby. The Merchants were puzzled. Finally, the Rabbi said, “That is what your prayers sound like. Is this any way to speak as you stand before God, the Ruler of the Universe?
    The merchants were ashamed until one of them spoke up and said, “A baby in the cradle babbles all day long and there is not one sage or scholar who can understand what the baby is saying. But then the father and the mother come along. They know every thought and feeling of their baby, they know the soul of their baby, and they can discern every sound that comes out of their baby’s mouth. So it is with God; we are all God’s children, God knows our thoughts and feelings. God knows our soul. God understands our every word even if we mumble them. What is important are our feelings when we pray, not how articulate our prayers might be.”
     “You are right, and I am wrong,” said the Rabbi, “As long as my kavvana is right in my prayer, I will put my faith in God that God understands the words I pray


Sermon given by Rabbi Randall Konigsburg at Beth Sholom B’nai Israel on Saturday, September 22, 2018.

Fri, May 24 2019 19 Iyyar 5779