web analytics
January 31, 2015 / 11 Shevat, 5775
 
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Home » Judaism » Torah »

Divine Intervention Motivates Religious Inspiration; After Three Days How Much Remains?

YU-011014

Until the drowning of the Egyptian army at the Yam Suf, Hashem’s taking of Bnei Yisrael out of slavery was incomplete. All the miracles and plagues would have accomplished little if the Egyptian forces would have recaptured the Jews and returned them to Egypt and a life of persecution. The Jews were not asked to fight for themselves, only to trust in Hashem’s deliverance.

The response was an outburst of song coming from the entire people, both male and female. Our sages have described the level of revelation of a handmaiden who was present at the event as greater than that of the prophet Yechezkel in his vision of the divine chariot. The parsha should have ended after Az Yashir. It doesn’t; this tells us that the aftermath of the Divine intervention and religious inspiration has great import.

Three days after singing Az Yashir, Bnei Yisrael faced a new crisis. The drinking water was bitter. They complained, questioning their leaving Egypt. Hashem, through Moshe, performs a miracle sweetening the water, but this time Bnei Yisrael are given mitzvot to perform. The guarantee that they will be protected from the illnesses that Hashem has inflicted on the Egyptians is contingent on them keeping commandments.

When the manna was given daily to sustain them in their travels, it came with restrictions and conditions. The first mention of the prohibitions of Shabbat is in the context of the manna. Hashem provided for Bnei Yisrael’s needs but they had to take some responsibility as well.

The battle against Amalek, which concludes the parsha, stands in sharp contrast to the parting of the sea. Moshe is commanded to form an army to fight the war. The role of Hashem has not disappeared, but it is altered. Success in the battle depends on the uplifted hands of Moshe, which the mishna in Rosh Hashana (Talmud Bavli 29A) explains symbolizes looking toward heaven and commitment to Hashem. Yet the army still has to actually fight the war.

The second half of the parsha focuses on two interrelated themes. Inspiration, particularly when it is a response to a specific event, cannot by itself be maintained. Bnei Yisrael had lived their entire lives as an oppressed minority in Egypt and that collective memory was not erased by the splitting of the sea, no matter how miraculous. The immediate impact was enormous but it only took three days to fade. For change to become permanent it has to become internalized through new behaviors. Mitzvot have to be observed regularly. Hashem saved the Jewish people, but they still needed to transform themselves. A free person is one who takes on responsibilities and obligations and lives with the consequences of his or her behavior.

Slaves are unable to fight their own battles. They lack a sense of themselves as independent entities.

Hashem fought the Jews’ war against the Egyptians, but once they began to act as free people they had to fight their enemies. That does not mean that Hashem has disappeared from history; it signifies a more complex interaction between human initiative and Divine protection.

These two themes are fundamental to Judaism. Inspiration is invaluable, but for it to become permanently transformative it must lead to an ongoing change of behavior. The essence of Judaism is a commitment to a life of observance. Religious significance is given to the most mundane of behaviors. Rav Yosef Dov Soloveichik in his seminal essay “Halakhic Man” talks about sanctifying this world rather than escaping from it.

Bnei Yisrael saw the infinite power of the Almighty and were inspired to express their appreciation of being saved but they were not yet partners in sanctifying this world.

About the Author: Rabbi Yosef Blau is mashgiach ruchani at Yeshiva University and an advocate for survivors of abuse.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

2 Responses to “Divine Intervention Motivates Religious Inspiration; After Three Days How Much Remains?”

  1. The idea that the divine punishes people or allows terrible things to befall them because they don't observe commandments seems to me so out of touch with the reality of everyday life. Down through history, the Jewish people have been some of the most committed to their faith of any peoples, which is why they have kept an identity. Yet they have suffered terribly. I mean, can any of us really believe that the pogroms of the past, or the horror of the Holocaust, were because of a lack of Jewish commitment? If so, what a cruel monster people worship. And then I think of all the non-observant Jews who live in peace and prosperity in safer parts of the world such as much of America. Are they merely waiting for the other shoe to drop? Or is there in fact no shoe, because the divine doesn't drop shoes? I prefer the view of the divine in Life of Pi, whereby everything in the world–the whole of nature–is all part of the divine. There is no punishment, no inflicting of horror. Humans do these things, not the divine. In which case being observant or not becomes a matter of choice and enjoyment of tradition and the connection it fosters, not a means of avoiding "getting it in the neck." Surely Judaism is able to rise above the punitive ideas of the divine held by the likes of the deceased Falwell or still living Pat Robertson, who blamed 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina (which I went through) on divine punishment–somehow ignoring the fact that, if the divine did it, it missed that cesspool of wickedness known as Bourbon Street and instead clobbered churches and temples! A bad shot? No, a bad idea.

  2. Well said. It's sad that as bad things happen to people, you have these false teachers going around telling others that it was because of sin in their lives. It's bad enough to pretend to be G-d or to be arrogant enough to think you know His will, but to pile it on when people are already devastated is just being a jerk. Guys like Falwell, Robertson, and Fred Phelps are just as bad as false prophets if not worse. And it's refreshing to see men like the Rabbi Blau who, despite tons of education, still have the humility to say that they don't know everything and the decency to just say "sometimes bad stuff happens to good people" without sticking it to anybody.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Jeremy Bird, working for Israeli campaign outfit V15, shown at Ted Talk, May 20, 2014.
V15 US Political Operative Marinated in Hate-Israel Activism
Latest Judaism Stories
Staum-013015

People often think that all they are missing is “just a little more” and then they can be truly happy.

Torah-Hakehillah-121914

The Midrash is teaching a fundamental message of what it means to be a religious person.

Rabbi Sacks

Torah opposes slavery; G-d desires the free worship of free human beings, yet slavery’s permitted-?!

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

France allowed Islamists to flourish despite their loyalty to Islamic sharia law not French values

Approximately 18 years ago, my uncle called me into his office saying he had an urgent matter to discuss. I didn’t know what he had in mind.

“Where is God?” asked the Kotzker Rebbe “God is not everywhere but only where you let Him enter”

An Explosion In The Trench
‘With A Glowing Hot Knife’
(Yevamos 120b)

Her first tactic was tefillah; she immediately began to recite one perek after another of Tehillim.

When a miracle occurs that transcends nature, Hashem has broken the laws of nature to create the miracle.

“How could you have expected my glasses to be there?” argued Mr. Weiss. “You shouldn’t have to pay.”

Rather than submit to this fate and suffer torture and humiliation, Shaul decided to fall on his sword.

How can the Da’as Zekeinim say this was Hashem’s plan to allow them to become the Torah Nation? We know it was actually a punishment.

A strange midrash of fruit trees surrounding the Nation of Israel as they walked to freedom

Leading by example must be visible, regarding where, when and how-like Nachshon entering the Red Sea

Rabbi Yaakov Nagen, a Ram at Yeshivat Otniel, notes that the verse is suggesting that retelling the story of the Exodus is so important that Hashem is performing ever-greater miracles specifically so that parents can tell their stories to future generations.

More Articles from Rabbi Yosef Blau
YU-070414-Figures

Unfortunately, at present, the rabbinate does not play a positive role in preventing abuse.

YU-011014

For change to become permanent it has to become internalized through new behaviors. Mitzvot have to be observed regularly.

The welfare of the child requires that every allegation be investigated.

With the release of the Winograd Commission report, the question whether Prime Minister Olmert will resign has dominated Israeli news. A large rally of his opponents took place in Tel Aviv demanding that he accept the report’s critique of his conduct of last summer’s Lebanon war and step down. Some ideological leaders from both the Left and the Right did not participate in the demonstration – the rightists arguing that the organizers of the rally were not against Olmert’s ideology, the leftists fearing his successor would not share theirs.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/torah/divine-intervention-motivates-religious-inspiration-after-three-days-how-much-remains/2014/01/10/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: