Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Devarim- V'etchanan

Today, any person with a distinct career is asked follow up questions about his/her profession. For example, if you are a chef, one would ask: do you food? Or to a doctor: So you medicine? Usually, the answers to these questions are “yes, as a chef I love working with food, or yes, as a doctor, I love working with healing.” I, however, am a different case. I want to be a rabbi. So when people hear this, their initial reactions are “ do you G-d?” My answer: I don’t know. It changes every so often.

Are we supposed to love G-d? A spiritual, yet invisible being? Am I supposed to publically and proudly love something that I have never seen? I mean, there are reasons for my varying relationship with this theological force we grasp as “G-d.”

For example, last week, I spent four days interning with RAVSAK, the Jewish day school network based in New York City. I mingled and worked with educators and scholars, observed programs downtown, and noshed on Kosher bagels and spreads on the upper west side. All in all, for someone like me, it was a fantastic week, and I loved G-d for bringing me there.

Other weeks weren’t as fantastic. Failing Geometry tests and balancing work with stress often reduced me to tears. I would blame my anger on anything I could, whether that being my innocent teacher, my genetics, or usually G-d as well. So, one could say, I was struggling with faith.

After being asked questions about my relationship with G-d, I decided I needed an answer. So, on one, hot summer afternoon, I resorted to the basics of Judaism, and opened my Tanach to a random page. I said, “Ok, G-d. Do something cool, work your magic, inspire me.” No, the Tanach didn’t begin to fly, nor did a $100 bill fall out of it, but I was inspired that afternoon. My tanach was opened to a relatively small book in the book of “Ketuvim” or Writings, called “Iyov” or Job. I had never studied the book of Job before, but since that day, it has become my favorite book in the bible.

Take a wealthy man with infinite faith in G-d, test his true loyalty to G-d by cursing his life and making it miserable, and you’ll have Job of Uz. G-d picked out a good man from the crowd, and turned his life upside down, just to see if his faith would surpass every obstacle. And it did. When Job lost his loved ones, his shelter, and his health, his mere response was from chapter 1 verse 21: The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, Blessed be the name of the Lord. Job could have cursed and blamed G-d, but he chose to rely on his faith for comfort instead. G-d liked Job from the beginning, and I started really liking this guy, too. He had unbreakable faith, confidence in G-d, or as my sister would call it, “Job’s got swagger.”

I’ve realized that faith is all around us. Whenever we hope for something, or wonder about something, we are putting faith into action. Every time you step onto that scale, you inhale, and have faith, or hope, that you lost some weight. Every time your son or daughter gets into a car, you have faith, or hope that he or she will return home safely. You may not think you’re directly praying to G-d, but then who would you be praying to? Faith is simply that positive energy; the hope that things will be ok; the comfort in believing that spirituality is more powerful than any weight- gaining snack or reckless driver.

I could definitely, however, bring chapter 1 verse 21 into my life: I certainly know G-d has taken away some good grades I needed to ace math, but He gives me bigger joys in life; my loving family, my motivation in religious studies, my health; all factors that I would never trade for better knowledge of isosceles triangles. I have a lot to be thankful for, and after that afternoon, I decided to be like Job and choose faith. By doing so, I faithfully praise whatever spiritual being brought and keeps my family here, under both positive and negative circumstances. By choosing faith, I have gained a new perspective on life: When I have fantastic weeks, I praise G-d for bringing me happiness, while during not-so-fantastic weeks, I praise G-d for allowing me to overcome the obstacles that accompany the harder weeks, and hope that there is always a deeper reason for any sadness and loss in my life. Of course, I sometimes still doubt the power of theology, but I have faith in the idea that something more powerful than all of us; a power that I can pray to.

Today, it is easy to bring a spiritual comfort, that being G-d into our lives, but even easier to take Him out all together. Next week, on Tisha B’Av, it’ll be easy and tempting to lose faith as we mourn the destruction of the Second Temple. As a Jewish community, how have we NOT lost our faith entirely after being victimized in genocides, and scapegoat-filled situations for all these years?! Tisha B’Av next week will certainly remind us that G-d was rather unusual when protecting our Jewish community throughout the years, but it’s those moments of confusion and doubt in theology where faith can come through the strongest. At the end of the day, no one really knows where G-d was during those rough moments in our lives, nor do we really have answers as to why we undergo losses every day.  We can, however CHOOSE to lose or weaken our relationships with G-d because of those tragic events in our history and today, or we can CHOOSE to sustain faith, or optimism in theology and just hope that there were reasons behind these tragic events. We could all be like Job. Because at the end of the day, isn’t losing faith the worst tragedy of all?

So, do I publically love G-d? I don’t know. I do know, however, that I have faith that everything happens for a reason, and I’m not going to blame and avoid the greater theological force in the world that brings me non-materialistic happiness. I’m comforted to know that there was a man in our Tanach that had unbreakable faith in G-d, no matter what circumstance, and on this year’s Shabbat Chazon, I want to be just like Job, with faith as strong as his; a level of faith that will alleviate the obstacles in my life, while making the blessings that much greater.

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