We usually worry about the unknown future, since not knowing what to expect can exacerbate a difficult situation. Putting this in terms of the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel,” the darkness of the tunnel represents the doubt of the unknown and the light symbolizes the certainty of knowing.
From time immemorial people have sought relief from worry not by waiting patiently for the passage of time – or the end of the tunnel – but by striving to develop knowledge of what the future may hold. The nations of the ancient world sought advice and instruction from necromancers, the crystal-ball soothsayers and readers of hand lines who probed the unknown.
Jews are forbidden (Devarim18:9-15) forbidden from seeking enlightenment from such sources (even if those sources should at times prove to be accurate) and are bidden to rely in such matters solely on the pronouncements of our prophets, who possess the divine power to accurately predict future events.
In the context of the above-mentioned verses dealing with this issue, the Torah enjoins us to be “tamim,” whole and complete (ibid 18:15), and not to imitate those who seek information from the necromancers. Rashi comments (ibid): “Walk with Him with tmimus, look forward to Him, and don’t delve deeply into the future, but whatever comes upon you accept with tmimus, and then you will be with Him and of His portion.”
The question Rashi seems to be addressing is: Why should there be an emphasis on the extreme other end of the spectrum? Why is it necessary to be tamim, in the full observance of all the mitzvot, in order not to transgress these few prohibitions? This seems to lead Rashi to conclude that tamim here does not mean whole and complete, as it does in many other contexts, but rather “simple,” lacking sophistication and astuteness –as, for example, the tam, the simple son of the Haggadah.
In our context: you must remain unsophisticated and may not delve on getting to know what the future holds, even at the cost of remaining incomplete and lacking that type of knowledge.
The next question Rashi then addresses is: If indeed we are not allowed to probe into the future, is there nonetheless a “kosher” way that may enable us to prepare for possible calamities? After all, a fairly accurate weather prediction enables us to better plan for a possible tornado or tsunami, and thus tone down our worry.
To offset this question, Rashi adds: (a) “Look forward to (the help of) God”; (b) “Don’t delve deeply into what the future holds”; and (c) “But whatever comes upon you accept with tmimus.”
This may be explained as follows: God abhors our being preoccupied with and delving deeply into the predictions of necromancers (even if accurate), but wants us to “look forward to His help” and offset worry about the future by adopting an attitude of full acceptance regarding whatever the future may hold.
Accordingly, worry is mitigated through unconditional acceptance rather than through whatever clarity one can gain about the future. We must still understand why Rashi adds further: “You will be with Him and as His portion.” It is because of the general theme of these verses, which is: “Do not seek predictions of the necromancers for God abhors this and is therefore chasing these evil nations out of the Holy Land.”
By implication, then, if one follows the injunctions of steering clear of the pundits and necromancers and instead puts his full trust in God and accepts what He has in store for him, it will secure his hold on the Holy Land and, in effect, set the stage to truly be “with Him and His Portion.”
About the Author: Rabbi Yeheskel Lebovic is the spiritual leader of Cong. Ahavath Zion of Maplewood N.J. His articles on Jewish philosophy and chassidus have appeared in various publications. Comments from readers can be e-mailed to email@example.com.
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