D'Var Torah - Parshat Re'eh
In 1967, the Beatles released the Magical Mystery Tour album. On it, is a very famous track that contain the following lyrics, “There's nothing you can know that isn't known. Nothing you can see that isn't shown. There's nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be. It's easy. All you need is love, all you need is love.” There is a limit to knowledge and sense, according to this hit song. Love is all you need.
While studying this week’s Parsha, Re’eh, I kept coming back to this one set of verses, and one verse in particular. We are warned, “If there arise in the midst of thee a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams--and he give thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spoke unto thee--saying: 'Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them'; thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or unto that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God putteth you to proof, to know whether ye do love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul/כִּי-יָקוּם בְּקִרְבְּךָ נָבִיא, אוֹ חֹלֵם חֲלוֹם; וְנָתַן אֵלֶיךָ אוֹת, אוֹ מוֹפֵת. וּבָא הָאוֹת וְהַמּוֹפֵת, אֲשֶׁר-דִּבֶּר אֵלֶיךָ לֵאמֹר: נֵלְכָה אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יְדַעְתָּם--וְנָעָבְדֵם. לֹא תִשְׁמַע, אֶל-דִּבְרֵי הַנָּבִיא הַהוּא, אוֹ אֶל-חוֹלֵם הַחֲלוֹם, הַהוּא: כִּי מְנַסֶּה יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, אֶתְכֶם, לָדַעַת הֲיִשְׁכֶם אֹהֲבִים אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, בְּכָל-לְבַבְכֶם וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁכֶם.” It really struck me that we were being tested by God. We had to prove whether or not we truly loved God.
Yara Inbar writes, “the root of faith is in the being swept away towards the irrational, just like falling in love. A person believes. Period. His soul is connected to divine roots, and he lives his life with the feeling of His presence. Not because this was explained to him, but because he feels and he knows.” At the heart of many of our relationships were beginning moments of emotion. They cannot be explained. I feel the way that I feel.
But what happens when my foundations have been shaken? When I am pulled in other directions? Inbar teaches that it is precisely at these moments that we need the logical, the rational to help pull us back and protect what we hold dear, the irrational. This is an old Jewish idea that constantly attempts to unite the body and spirit. If we live in a world of pure logic, we will miss out on wonderful opportunities. If we are completely governed by emotion, then we could be carried away in the wrong direction.
This is how God is testing us. Can we love God with all of our hearts (considered to be the mind), the place of logic, and all of our souls, the place of emotion. I am sure that many of us maintain our commitment to the traditions and beliefs of our community because at one point, there was a deep feeling of connection. And yet we do not always feel that way. I remember feeling connected to God on a Shabbat when I was fourteen. And yet I do not always feel that way. That is when I need to use my rational side to help maintain and guard that which was forged in the irrational emotions of a beautiful moment.
May this week help us to see and remember those beautiful moments in our lives. Moments that might not make sense, but that are central to us. And may this week also help us find the reasons for our connections, even when we don’t feel them as deeply as we once might have. Then we will know that we love.
Rabbi Ezra Balser has been the rabbi at Temple Beth Sholom since July 1, 2016. He received his “smicha” (ordination) in June 2017 from Hebrew College while also earning a Master’s Degree in Jewish Studies. He has also received the iCenter's Certification in Israel Education.